Affects of childhood on adult relationships

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Outline and Evaluate the influence of childhood on adult relationships (24
Expectations of later relationships can be a continuation of early attachment styles, as the
behaviour of the infant's primary attachment figure promotes an internal working model of
relationships which leads the infant to expect the same in later relationships. Expectations
of sexuality are also learned in relation to early attachment; for example individuals who
had an avoidant attachment are more likely to seek sex without love.
In some cases, a child's internal working model can lead them to develop an attachment
disorder. These individuals experienced abuse or neglect in childhood, and as a result they
resist or reject intimacy in adult relationships. Their adult relationships may also involve a
lack of responsiveness or excessive over-familiarity.
Early relationships with peers can also influence later adult relationships. Close friendships
in childhood are often categorised by affection, a sense of alliance & intimacy, and the
sharing of personal information. The experience of having friends to confide in promotes
feelings of trust, acceptance and a sense of being understood - characteristics that are also
important in later adult relationships.
In later childhood, particularly adolescence, attachment usually shifts from parents to peers.
With this shift, adolescents can redirect interpersonal energy towards romantic partners.
These early romantic relationships allow adolescents to gain experience with a new kind of
emotional & physical intimacy. However, Madsen found that adolescents with heavy dating
frequency generally had poorer quality young adult relationships, showing that too much
dating in adolescents can be maladaptive.
Research has supported the link between early attachment style and success in later
relationships. Fraley conducted a meta-analysis of studies found correlations from 0.1 to 0.5
between attachment type and later relationships, demonstrating a fairly strong link. The
links between some attachment types (e.g. insecure-anxious) and adult relationships were
less clear than they were with other attachment types, suggesting that some attachment
types are more unstable over time.
However, it could be that an individual's attachment type is determined by their current
relationship as well as their attachment in childhood; this may be why happily married
individuals are secure. Attachment theory does suggest that significant relationship
experiences can alter attachment organisation. This idea is supported by the finding that
relationship break-ups are often associated with a shift from secure to insecure attachment.
In a longitudinal study by Simpson et al., participants were studied at four key points:
infancy, early childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Their attachment types and romantic
relationships were assessed at some of these different stages to attempt to identify a
relationship between them. The findings supported the claim that expression of emotions in
adult romantic relationships can be traced back to a person's early attachment experiences.
Securely attached children were more expressive and emotionally attached in later romantic

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Research such as the aforementioned study may appear to indicate that early experiences
have a very fixed effect on later adult relationships. However, there were many exceptions
in which participants had positive adult relationships despite being insecurely attached.
Experiences throughout an individual's life, as well as genetic factors, can also affect the
functioning of adult relationships.
The Temperament hypothesis is an alternative explanation that sees the quality of adult
relationships as being determined biologically by innate personality factors.…read more


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