Attachment Paper

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Impact of Childhood Attachments on Adult Health and the Establishment of Relationships

Patricia L. Fowler

Liberty University

COUN 502 – Human Growth and Development

Dr. Luanne Bender Long

October 08, 2012

Abstract

Clinical research has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between the parent-child attachment and the psychodynamics of adult relationships. The theory of attachment, by John Bowlby, has been instrumental in the advancement of modern psychology. Bowlby’s attachment theory provides a strong framework for the comprehension of both the nature of close relationships and the link between the associations of children and how this affects their relationships as adults, as well as, various health issues concerning adults. The following research endeavor reviews the literature concerning the validity and reliability of the attachment styles that can be a predicting factor as to how adults engage in the formation of relationships. Research presented will also help to elucidate how attachment styles during childhood relate to adult related health issues The following essay will define attachment theory as described by Bowlby and Ainsworth; followed by an analysis how attachments formed in early childhood have an impact on attachments formed during adulthood. The main focus of the research will examine the evidence concerning attachment assessment methods. Finally, the research essay will examine the empirical evidence depicting how attachment predicts relationship tendencies in adults along with the risk factors for certain health related issues from the perspective attachment style.

John Bowlby’s theory of attachment has been instrumental in the advancement of modern psychology. According to Bowlby (1982), attachments exist to bring infants into close proximity with their caregivers thereby protecting the infant from harm and predation. The idea of attachment was first postulated by Sigmund Freud and focused on the attachment relationship between mother and child. Freud analyzed this interaction using psychoanalytic thought, which assumes that an unconscious drive for physical gratification is the basis of attachment. Bowlby (1982) moved away from Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective and proposed an ethological theory of attachment. The foundation of this perspective depicts the inherent survival instinct as the catalyst for attachment. At the most basic level, Bowlby theorized that attachment formation is dependent on the formation of trust in the infant. Trust develops from the level of sensitivity the caregiver provides the infant during times of stress. The result of this interaction is the infant producing an adaptive response and those responses, according to Bowlby (1982), into mental representations, or working models, that are believed to guide the behavior of attachment relationships over time, carrying over into adulthood.

The existence of the different types of attachment styles was empirically demonstrated by Ainsworth and colleagues (1978) in studies with infants using the Strange Situation procedure. The Strange Situation procedure involved observing a child’s behavior when they were separated from their primary caregiver. Ainsworth and colleagues classified the attachment styles of the infant based on the observed strength of the bond between the infant and their caregiver (Ainsworth, et al., 1978). The various types of attachment styles are typically classified into three categories including: secure attachment, anxious/ambivalent attachment, and avoidant attachment. These attachment styles will be discussed further in relationship to their impact on adult relationships and the effects they have on the general health in adults. A fourth attachment style was classified much later than what was presented in the Strange Situation, called disorganized attachment, and accounts for only about five to...
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