Attachment: A Theory of Development of Adult Relationships
University of Illinois at Chicago
As humans, building relationships between others is a form of connecting and communicating. It is a social situation that is experienced every day through the course of a lifetime. The initial relationship that is made is between the mother and the child. This bond that connects two people is known to be called attachment. The theory of attachment begins at birth, and from that, continuing on to other relationships in family, friends, and romance. Attachment is taught through social experiences, however the relationship with the mother and her temperament are the key factors in shaping the infants attachment type, which will stay with them throughout the course of a lifetime. (Bowlby, 1979)
To understand attachment type, it is categorized in three major styles: secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent. It is understood that that these types are determined by the relationship with the parents during childhood. Several studies have tested attachment in various forms. In one study (Dinero, Conger, Shaver, Widaman & Larsen-Rife, 2008) attachment was tested by examining the quality of family interactions during adolescence period and their romantic relationship as a young adult. The results found were not surprising; parents who are positive, warm, caring and kind toward their teen prove to be the most supportive and secure. This helped form and lead the young adult into a secure romantic relationship. Something interesting that was found was that as a relationship begins to get more serious, like marriage, the original influence of the familial attachment begins to change into a combination of that and of their partner. (Dinero et al., 2008)
The second study (Hazan & Shaver, 1987) states romantic love as an “attachment process” by saying that this process is similar to the one created between the mother and the child. This study correlates with the idea in the first study, that a romantic relationship changes the attachment style from child to adult. The concept of the three attachment styles is used in comparing the differences between love, self, and family; and is related with each type. The differences in love experiences are representative; secure type felt happy, trusting, and friendly. Whereas the avoidant type had a fear of closeness or commitment, and the anxious/ambivalent felt jealousy, mood swings and reciprocity. (Hazan & Shaver, 1987) Differences in how each type perceive themselves still follow the same tone; the secure type is easy going, liked by most people, and good hearted. The avoidant type and anxious/ambivalent feel underappreciated and misunderstood. Differences in family history showed unusual results. Avoidant types related with secure types on a positive note, describing their quality of family attachment as nurturing and non-intrusive. However, the reason may be because young participants in the study (college students) are not mature or old enough to have evolved into their “romantic love attachment process” and still idealize their familial attachment. (Hazan & Shaver, 1987)
The third study (Simpson, Rholes & Phillips, 1996) involves the young adults who are evolving into their mature attachments of romantic love. They studied the different perceptions and temperaments of young couples; mainly focusing on either how ambivalent or avoidant they are while interacting with each other when dealing with a major relationship problem. The results seem to go with what has been found in other studies; compared to avoidant types, ambivalent types are less satisfied in their relationships, they tend to change their view of the relationship and partner after a major conflict. These types of arguments are very common for the ambivalent type due to the fact that they are so unsatisfied, constantly experiencing emotional ups and downs. (Simpson et al., 1996) Avoidant...
References: Bowlby, J. (1979). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. London: Tavistock.
Dinero, R. E., Conger, R. D., Shaver, P. R., Widaman, K. F., Larsen-Rife, D. (2008). Influence of family of origin and adult romantic partners on romantic attachment security. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 622-632.
Hazan, C., Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.
Simpson, J. A., Collins, A. W., Tran, S., Haydon, K. C. (2007). Attachment and the experience and expression of emotion in romantic relationships: A developmental perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 355-367.
Simpson, J. A., Rholes, S. W., Phillips, D. (1996). Conflict in close relationships: An attachment perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 899 914.
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