The Influence That Significant Others Have on an Individual’s Development. Thematic Analysis.

Topics: Attachment theory, Attachment in adults, Developmental psychology Pages: 8 (2351 words) Published: July 30, 2012
The influence that significant others have on an individual’s development. Thematic analysis.


The aim of this qualitative study was to explore whether significant people in human’s life can influence an individual’s development. The assumption that early relationships with our main careers play central part in our later development derives from Bowlby’s attachment theory and his ideas of internal working model. Data for the study was collected through the use of semi-structured interviews within the theoretical framework of social constructionist perspective. Thematic analyses were used to analyze pre-recorded material and the findings showed that significant others could influence individual’s development in life.


The epistemology and ontology in this qualitative study derives from social constructionist position. It suggests that people are able to reflect on their life experiences, make sense of them and form their meanings. These meanings are then constructed and interpreted through language and could be shared with other people. This qualitative study has focused on interaction between people and it’s importance in human development. Many experts in this field has examined assumption, that our experiences from childhood shape our development and are then reflected in our behaviour in later relationships. However, their views about this topic differ to some extent. Judith Rich Harris (1999, as cited in Wood, Littleton and Oates, 2007) in her work The Nurture Assumption emphasizes the influence of peer groups on children’s development. She argues that influence within peer groups is greater then parental influence. Schaffer’s (1996, as cited in Wood et al., 2007) observational studies about peer and sibling’s relationships support these suggestions. He claims that interactions between children are multi-faceted and diverse and that they have significant influence on each other.

Other theories suggest that the relationships with our main carers in our childhood have equally significant impact on our development (Wood et al., 2007). Example of one such a theory is Attachment Theory formulated by John Bowbly (1940s, as cited in Wood et al., 2007). Its main principles are based on the assumption that in order to develop into emotionally and socially healthy individual, child needs to create emotional bond with at least one person who takes care of the child, the ‘mother figure’. These special relationships between the child and main carer are ongoing and considered to be some kind of secure base for child development. They represent a source of comfort and security, which encourages child to explore a world around and gain new knowledge. Hazan and Shaver (1987, as cited in Wood et al., 2007) explored Bowbly’s ideas in the context of romantic relationships. They analysed over 1,200 replies to published ‘love quiz’ and identify different attachment types in adult dating. Findings showed that some people were comfortable to have a close relationship and others feared rejection and had a few close people. Researchers believe that people responses had reflected continuity between past and present attachment styles.

According to Bowlby, children develop ‘internal working model’ (Wood et al., 2007) of the world and the self. It is some kind of inner mental world, where child makes sense of self, defines mother figure and the relationship between them. It reflects children’s expectations of others and directs how they respond. These models are unconsciously carried on into adulthood and are likely to predict the behaviour in later relationships. They are relatively fixed but they can be changed. Main and Goldwyn (1984, as cited in Wood et al., 2007) believed that it was possible to change that and to ‘earn security’. This means that our adult relationships, such as strong and positive marital relationships can repair damage done in the childhood.

The aim of the present study, then,...
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