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Influence of childhood experiences on adult relationships:
Individuals differ in their relationships: some are content in long-term
relationships, while others prefer more short-term, less intense associations.
There are those who seem `lucky in love', and there are those who seem to lurch
from one unstable relationship to another. Psychologists have tried to see if the
quality and pattern of relationships in adulthood is related to earlier
experiences in life.
Bowlby (1951) believed that the type and quality of relationships that an
individual has with their primary care giver provides the foundation for adult
relationships by creating an `internal working model' that acts as a template
for the future. This is known as the Continuity Hypothesis - the belief that
similar relationships to those you have experienced as a child will continue to
occur as an adult.
There are several attachment styles that a child can develop in infancy.
Ainsworth (1971) divided these into secure, insecure-avoidant and
insecure-resistant styles when working on her `Strange Situation'
methodology. The characteristics we associate with attachment styles will
provide a child with a set of beliefs about themselves and the nature of
relationships with others. The Continuity Hypothesis sees these attachment
styles as predicative indicator of the nature of adult relationships. As such,
someone who is securely attached as a child can expect to have similar
relationships throughout life.
Simpson et al (2007) performed a longitudinal study on a group of
individuals from childhood to their twenties. Securely attached individuals
were more socially competent, developed secure friendships and had
positive emotional experiences on a regular basis, supporting the
Hazan and Shaver (1981) devised a `love quiz' in a local newspaper,
asking readers to describe their feelings and experiences about romantic
relationships and their childhood relationships with parents. They found a
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findings substantially support the hypothesis.
McCarthy (1999) found that women who had insecure-avoidant
attachments in childhood did not have successful romantic relationships
in later life, whilst those with insecure-resistant attachments had poor
friendships. Those with secure attachments early in life had successful
romantic relationships and friendships, in line with the Continuity
Schachner and Shaver (2002) found that individuals with
insecure-avoidant attachment types were more accepting of
relationships that lacked intimacy, such as casual sexual affairs.…read more