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Discuss the influence that childhood experiences may have on adult
relationships. (9+16 marks)
Bowlby argued that early relationships with our primary caregivers provide the basis for
later adult relationships. This is called the continuity hypothesis. The child develops an
internal working model from their first relationship with their caregiver in which they see
themselves as lovable or otherwise trustworthy.
Ainsworth et al. Divide attachment styles into 3 types using the `strange situation'
methodology. Secure (type B), insecure ambivalent (type C) and insecure avoidant
(type A). Research has taken place to see whether these types influence the
relationships a child develops with those of the same age and whether they persist in
Relationships with peers are characterized as horizontal relationships as they take
place between two people and are branded by equality. Peer relationships provide
young people the opportunity to develop social competence. Attachment theories
suggest that the Childs attachment classification may influence their popularity with
Considerable evidence has supported this view. LyonsRuth et al. carried out a
longitudinal study which suggested that infant attachment type at 18 months was the
best predictor of problematic relationships with peers in 5 year olds. This study was a
longitudinal study meaning rich qualitative detailed data can be yielded, however in
studies like these participant attrition can be a problem. As people may drop out during
the research generalisations become difficult to do as the sample may end up being
Hartup et al. argues that children of secure attachment types are more popular at
nursery. In contrast, insecurely attached children tend to be more reliant on teachers for
support. These studies support the claim that secure attachments with parents enable
children to be good at later relationships.
However, the Social learning theory provides an alternative explanation of the link
between attachment type and childhood popularity. It suggests that children learn
relationships from their parents via modelling, observation and imitation.
Parke argues that families indirectly influence their child's relationships. There is
evidence to support this. Russell and Finnie observed Australian preschool children
with their mothers in a situation with unfamiliar peers. They found that `popular' children
had mothers who encouraged them to interact with other children. It was vice versa for
`neglected' classed children. However, this study is cultural bias as it was conducted in
Australia and cannot be generalised to other cultural values.
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Research has considered the possibility of continuities between childhood and adult
relationships. Hazan and Shaver's love quiz is one of the most famous of these studies.
They set out to test the question `is love in adulthood directly related to attachment type
as a child'? The research involved a love quiz in their North American paper. This
involved their feelings about relationships and relationships experienced with their