Humans are social beings and need to be with others and form relationships but our relationship behaviors do not “come naturally” and they need to be learned similar to other social skills (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005, p. 77). Many psychologists argue that the kind of relationships infants have with their primary caregivers is the blueprint for the later life relationships (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Behaviors in adult relationships’ are influenced by the kinds of relationships and attachments they have experienced in their early years with their primary caregivers.
This is the basic perspective of the theory of attachment styles that claims that the kind of bonds we form early in life influence the kinds of relationships we form as adults (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011). After observing interactions of infants with their mothers the developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues (1978) identified three patterns of attachments that include the secure attachment style, anxious/ambivalent attachment style and avoidance attachment style (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005).
Depending on the specific attachment style one was exposed to and learned as an infant will demonstrate specific adult attachment styles which involve the secure, preoccupied, fearful and dismissing adult attachment styles (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005, p. 85). Therefore one can see that the interactions we first have with our primary caregivers could shape our relationships as adults. Additionally no one can doubt that children are first shaped inside their families and no one can underestimate the importance of the parents’ role on a child’s development and how it can affect their future development.
This brings to mind the theory of parenting styles I learned in a previous psychology class. Diana Baumrind developed a theory of four distinct parenting styles which reflect the two dimensions of parenting which are responsiveness and demandingness (Arnett, 2010). Responsiveness reflects the degree to which parents are supportive and sensitive to the child’s needs and reflects the amount of love, warmth and affection expressed to their children (Arnett, 2010).
Demandingness reflects the degree to which parents are demanding, have rules and high expectations for their children and it reflects the amount of controlling and monitoring parents have towards their children (Arnett, 2010). Based on these two dimensions the four types of parenting styles are authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and neglectful or disengaged. Parenting style has been found to greatly influence and affect adolescent development and also could probably affect the relationships with others in a similar fashion that attachment style may. Attachment Style
As stated above early attachment is influential on one’s life and attachment styles develop from a combination of biological influences and social learning (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). The primary caregiver’s behavior and interaction towards an infant could affect and shape their expectations and interactions with others throughout their lives. Regarding Ainsworth’s attachment styles infants with secure attachment styles show trust to their caregivers, do not worry when being abandoned and view themselves as worthy and well liked (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011).
They use their primary caregiver as a “secure base from which to explore” when all is well and use them for consolidation when frightened (Arnett, 2010, p. 189). Infants with anxious/ambivalent attachment styles are insecure and anxious because they are not able to predict their caregiver’s behavior since their caregivers demonstrate inconsistent behavior and affection (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011). Infants with avoidance attachment styles demonstrate suppressive feelings towards their caregiver and are discouraged from creating an intimate relationship with them as ue to their distanced behavior have caused them to worry about rejection (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011).
Depending of the attachment style that infants and young children have been exposed to they develop specific patterns of relationships that affect their responses to their adult relationshipF1_medium 10. jpgs. For instance a child that had a secure attachment with their caregivers would be able to develop lasting relationships as adults. Contrary a child who had an avoidant attachment with their caregivers would have difficulty creating long lasting relationships and would have difficulty to trust others.
Research has been able to confirm that our adult relationships are shaped by our early patterns of attachment and with the ways of dealing with closeness, separation and love (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Furthermore Bartholomew (1990) identified four styles of adult attachment that are derived from the two dimensions that have to do with our self-image and image of others (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005; Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991).
For the dimension of self-image and image of others there are two levels which are the positive and negative and the combination of them composing the four patterns of adult attachment styles. Additionally this model, as indicated in the figure, includes the dimensions of dependency on the horizontal axis and avoidance on the vertical axis and both vary from low to high (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Ma, 2006). For instance the secure adult attachment style based on this model is characterized by positive self-image with low dependency and by a positive image of others with low avoidance.
Therefore one who has secure attachments will be comfortable with intimacy and autonomy (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). From personal experience and from people I know I believe that attachment theory, and the above mentioned model, could accurately be applied to explain relationship patterns. Personally as a child I developed a secure attachment with my parents as they were responsive to my needs and caring, they were there when I needed them and they provided me with reassurance to explore my environment.
As an adult I have been able to develop lasting relationships and I am comfortable with closeness, trusting untitled11. bmpothers, and interdependence. When considering others from my close environment I also can relate their relationship patterns with the attachment theory and this appears helpful to better understand them. For instance a close friend of mine and previous colleague seems she has developed a preoccupied attachment style and this could explain her pattern of relationships thus far in her life.
She has an anxious/ambivalent attachment style with her parents as a result of their job obligations, and their personalities were inconsistent regarding their affection towards her. As an adult she developed a preoccupied attachment style and she exhibits this attachment style towards both her friendships and intimate relationships. Partici rly when it comes to her intimate relationships this type of attachment style is possibly responsible for her two divorces within a five year time frame and her being less satisfied with her romantic relationships.
Whenever she entered into a romantic relationship she acted obsessive and was very preoccupied with her relationship. Most of her relationships were short-lived and even when she ended up getting married her first marriage lasted only one year and her second just a little longer. The main reason for this, based on what I learned from the attachment theory, seems to be the fact that she entered her relationships quite fast without first really knowing her partner and by being obsessive, anxious, jealous over her relationship it probably discouraged her intimate others and scared them away.
Fortunately people are able to change and as one learns one’s attachment style they could possibly unlearn it over time (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). However in order to do so one needs to become aware of their relationship pattern and then decide what actually needs to be accomplished in order succeed this (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005).