Early Experiences of relationships with significant others have long term implications for a child's social and emotional development. Discuss
In the following essay I plan to explore how early experiences of relationships relate to a child's later social and emotional development. Early relationships take the form of attachments. Once a child is born they develop a special bond with another human being, this I believe is a relationship that provides a feeling of safety and security for the child and one that relies on the trust a child has for the person who they share this bond with i.e. their attachment figure from which exploration of the world begins. “Attachment theory is a way of explaining the emotional bonds that children develop with their carers, how crucial these are to their personal, social and emotional development and what we observe when a child is separated from the secure relationship of their primary caregiver.” (Read, 2010, p. 8)
The key question I aim to address is ‘are early relationships key in later social and emotional development?’ In other words, do the attachments formed in early childhood have an effect on adolescent and adult relationships? I plan to look into leading psychologists theories on the importance of early relationships including that of John Bowlby and will look at contrasting and supporting evidence and opposing theories. By looking at adoption and deprivation studies I hope to uncover the effects of disruption to the formation of early relationships and from looking at different types of relationships I hope to discover how each effect the social and emotional development of a child differently. When exploring attachments, we must first ask ourselves what exactly attachments are and how are they formed. Firstly, it is widely agreed that attachments are reciprocal bonds between two people that develop over time and through interaction (Bailey, et al., 2008). Psychologists differ in their theories of how and why attachments are formed and the importance of forming them in a child’s early years. The main, most known theory that aims to account for attachments is Bowlby’s Evolutionary Theory (1951, 1969). His original exposition argued that affectional ties between children and their caregivers have a biological basis that is best understood in an evolutionary context. He believed that attachment is adaptive and innate and that infants and carers are programed to become attached. He notes (Parkinson, 2009) that an infant elicits caregiving through social releasers such as crying and smiling, these social releasers encourage interaction and bonds are formed with caregivers that respond sensitively. From Bowlby’s perspective, attachment is a biological process, there is a critical period for forming attachments and after this time it is no longer possible. He believed that this critical period is between birth and three years of age. However, after continuing his studies for many years he changed his theory to include a sensitive period rather than a critical period (Holmes, 1993), he recognised that multiple attachments are possible and that attachments to a parent/parent figure can be formed after the period of birth to three years but will not have such a large influence on the child’s later social and emotional development. Bowlby believed that attachment plays a large role in later life – that a child forms one special attachment (monotropic) usually to their mother that provides the basis for an internal working model, i.e. the basis of all subsequent relationships (Parkinson, 2009). He named this the continuity hypothesis. Pennington (1986) agrees in saying that many social psychologists regard the first relationship as a prototype (blueprint or model) for future relationships in that it determines the way a person approaches and behaves and interacts with other people. Following on from Bowlby’s work on attachment theory, Ainsworth et al. (1978) developed a method for...
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Appendix 1 - Styles of Parenting, Warmth and Control Dimensions (Baumrind, 1967)
Appendix 2 - The Ecological Model of Human Development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979)
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