A Thematic Analysis in Support of the Theory That Early Relationships Affect Adult Attachment

Topics: Attachment theory, Mary Ainsworth, John Bowlby Pages: 9 (2618 words) Published: June 18, 2013
A thematic analysis in support of the theory that early relationships affect adult attachment


This study was a qualitative thematic analysis to see if there was any evidence in early relationships that then affects the adult attachment theory. The qualitative textual analysis was carried out on a pre-existing, edited, filmed semi-structured interview. The thematic analysis showed that there is some truth in the adult attachment theory but life experiences and circumstances also have an effect on the individual. Furthermore relationships can play an important part in our lives with some evidence showing that Bowlby’s theory has some validity, (as cited in Cooper and Roth 2007, p37).


A thematic analysis is historically a practice in qualitative research, which involves searching through data to identify patterns and themes. A theme is linked to categories, conveying similar meanings. This popular technique can be enhanced by the analyst lacking previous knowledge of the research topic, so they are not guided by any preconceptions. Furthermore, the analyst does not have to be an expert in the research topic. However, in order to begin analysis a researcher must have at least some understanding to guide the insightful processes. There is no simple distinction between qualitative and quantitative methods. Since analysts move back and forth between new concepts and the data, all research involves processes of induction and deduction, especially thematic analysis whereby induction creates themes and deduction verifies them. Thematic analysis is also part of everyday life and in order to maintain a sense of the world, we constantly arrange incoming information, into themes with the use of our existing experiences. (as cited in Cooper and Roth 2007, p21).

A central issue in developmental psychology is whether our experiences during childhood in some way shape the patterns of our later adult relationships. John Bowlby, who was a key figure, in the development of the attachment theory, began his work on this theory in the 1940’s,.Children have a drive to feel secure by forming an emotional bond with a primary giver (as cited in Cooper and Roth 2007, p28). Meaning that Bowlby’s idea, was that children develop, secure attachments, which are important in later life. Furthermore, Bowlby drew the ideas of critical and sensitive periods in development, believing that the establishment of a healthy internal working model is essential for future relationships, social behaviour and mental health, (as cited in Cooper and Roth 2007, p28).

Charles Darwin, was one of the first major influences on development and suggests that changes occur in people and their behaviour because they serve a new and adaptive function, with the idea that the attachment theory is functional because the bound between carer and child needs to be strong so the child becomes socially confident, ( as cited in Cooper and Roth, 2007, p51).

Moreover, Mary Ainsworth spent many years working with Bowlby at a clinic in London, where she built upon his ideas. She mainly researched the effects of maternal deprivation. The results from this research led Bowldy to believe that he had found the main reason for juvenile delinquency, with the lack or non-existent mothering. 1954 Ainsworth went to Africa and moved the attachment theory forward through her observations of 28 mothers and the off spring in Uganda. Having kept in touch with Bowlby she reported that she had identified three different types of attachment, with an experiment called “ the strange situation” which was carried out in an observation laboratory with video cameras recording the behaviour of mothers and their infants showing a sequence of separations and reunions involving a child the mother and a stranger. The first type attachment, type...

References: Wood, C., Littleton, K., & Oates. (2007) Lifespan Development. Cooper, T,Roth,L.Challenging Psychological Issues, pp3-60 Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Banister, P. (2007) Exploring Psychology Method Book, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
(2007,2009 and 2011)Exploring Psychology DVD, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
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