Theories and research into adult attachment suggests that the effects of the close emotional bond between parent and child in early life could be responsible for the bond that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships during adult life. In line with this, the aim of this report is to offer an overview of the history of attachment theories and the key theoretical ideas through using thematic analysis of a semi structured interview. Findings for this study come an interview with a middle-aged British woman about her own experiences in terms of relationships with parental figures during early age and how those relationships have affected her adult relationships.
Lifespan psychology is concerned with the ways in which we change and develop throughout our life and aims to find out firstly if “developmental change in just one aspect of our psychology (personality, biological and cognitive factors) will have an impact on some or all of the others” (Wood, Littleton & Oates, 2007) and secondly if, these factors are affected more by nature (internal factors) or nurture (external factors). One of the theories called upon to explore this is attachment theory which was first introduced by John Bowlby (1907-1990). A British psychoanalyst who was intrigued by the bonds between parent and child and the high levels of distressed he witnessed by the child during separation from the parent. Bowlby believed the distress behaviours shown by the child such as “crying and searching are adaptive responses to separation…from the primary attachment figure” (Fraley, 2010) providing an “evolutionary function” as the primary caregiver provides the essentials for survival at that point. Models of attachment theories such as Bowlby’s, believe that as well as evolutionary functions, attachments in early life form the platform for which relationships in later life, be that romantic or platonic, are based. Implying that more secure bonds in early life will lead to more stable adult relationships (Bowlby as cited in Wood, et al., 2007) and a negative bond or lack of attachment in early life will lead to a lack of a secure relationship bond in adulthood. This point substantiates the assumption that “adulthood is the product of childhood” (Wood, Littleton & Oates) which leads us on to question whether these early attachments in life either positive or negative, can be overwritten in later life creating a shift for example, from a negative early attachment to be able to have a positive adult relationship, known as “earned secure” (Main and Goldwyn as cited in Wood et al.). Research on attachment in later life was carried out by two attachment researchers Hazan and Shaver in 1987. They received a high response to a simple ‘love quiz’ they published in a US newspaper designed to determine adult attachment types. From the 1200 replies Hazan and Shaver received, 56% of the participants classed themselves as having a “secure” attachment, 25% as having an avoidant attachment and 19% falling into the ambivalent category (Hazan and Shaver as cited in Wood, Littleton & Oates). In this case those who were classed as “secure” also stated that their relationships with partners lasted twice as long as the reported figures by the “insecure” groups and the secure group also reported more positive relationships with parents. These points help prove the findings of the theories mentioned above and also lead us onto the research question in mind for this report of “how do adults perceive that significant others in their lives (i.e. people who are or have been important to them) have affected their development?”
The participant - a middle-aged British female - was contacted and interviewed by The Open University. It is assumed that the participant was properly briefed and debriefed and the researcher made sure all ethical...