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You’re Not Introverted. You’re Vertically Attached.

What we think of as introversion could actually be a novel attachment style.

Key points

  • The qualities of introversion are also seen in vertical attachment.
  • People who are more attached to their loved ones than to their peers can find standard socializing exhausting.
  • This does not make them introverts. They just socialize differently.
  • Vertically-attached individuals should take pride in their socializing style, rather than feel insecure.
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

We explain a lot using the trait introversion/extroversion. Feel exhausted after a party? Rather see one close friend than a group of acquaintances? Enjoy your own company? In our world, that makes you an introvert.

There’s another possible explanation. Vertical attachment is when you are closer to your parents and extended family members than to your peers. Did you go to your parents when things were hard? Would you rather spend a Friday night at home with them, rather than with same-aged peers? If you answered yes to these questions, you were vertically attached.

If you were closer to your peers, then you were peer attached. You relied on your friends to provide your compass. You preferred to hang out with them rather than your family and looked to them for input you could trust.

We live in a peer-oriented world. We believe that having lots of friends means that we are well-adjusted. We put kids in playgroups and daycare for peer interaction. We expect teenagers to want to hang out exclusively with their friends, thinking it is the natural way of things. As a result, generations often feel worlds apart. We use different language, dress, and technology apps. Even if multiple generations are invited to the same party, the kids go to the basement playroom while the parents stay upstairs.

Vertically-attached individuals can feel out of place in this context, demonstrating the earmarks of introversion. Will they be exhausted after a party with same-aged acquaintances? Absolutely. Would they rather spend time with one close friend? For sure. Do they enjoy alone time? Yes, more than they enjoy time fitting in with peers.

This is not to say that introversion does not exist. Many people need alone time to recharge. However, vertically-attached people often label themselves as introverted. They feel insecure that others have more friends and therefore are living richer lives. They downplay their family attachments, rationalizing that their loved ones are stuck with them.

If these insecurities resonate with you, know that there is nothing wrong with you, and you are not missing out on anything. Your attachment style is just different than the culture in which you live. Have confidence in the strength of the relationships you have, whether it is with a mom who feels more like a best friend, or a grandmother with whom you can share anything. They are meaningful, enriching relationships, even if they look different than the cultural norm.


Neufeld, G. & Mate, G. (2014). Hold On to Your Kids. Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. Ballantine Books.

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