Many attachment psychologists argue that early relationships with our primary caregivers provide the foundation for later adult relationships. Bowlby called this the continuity hypothesis. This is the claim that early relationship experiences continue in later adult relationships.
According to the attachment theory, young children develop an 'internal working model' from their first relationship with their primary carer. This is then the basis on which they consider what is acceptable in future relationships and whether they are able to trust or rely other individuals (based on preconceptions from previous relationships). Young children also develop characteristic attachment styles in their early relationships which influence later relationships by providing the child with beliefs about themselves, other people and relationships in general.
There are several attachment styles that a child can develop in infancy. Ainsworth (1971) divided these into secure, insecure-avoidant and insecure-resistant, when working on her ‘Strange Situation’ research. The characteristics we associate with attachment styles will provide a child with a set of beliefs about themselves and the nature of relationships with others. These attachment styles can be seen as a indicator of the nature of their future adult relationships. For example, someone who is securely attached as a child can expect to have similar relationships throughout life.
There is research supporting the influence of childhood on adult relationship, such as the longitudinal study performed by Simpson et al (2007). It was carried out on on a group of individuals from childhood into their twenties. Individuals previously labelled as 'securely attached' were more capable of socialising, developed secure friendships and had positive emotional experiences on a regular basis, supporting the hypothesis. This shows that our attachment as children, and