Psyhchology - Relationships

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The influence of Childhood on Adult Relationships

Parent- child Relationships is one way in which childhood can affect your adult relationships. Shaver et al said that our romantic love in adult relationships is affected by three things from our childhood; attachment, caregiving and sexuality. The behaviour of the primary caregiver promotes the internal working model, which according to Bowlby developed within the critical time periods and forms the basis of all later relationships. In some cases the internal working model can lead to an attachment disorder, whereby some people find the intimacy of relationships very difficult which is often caused by abuse or neglect. The consequence of this can be a lack of responsiveness to others or excessive over-familiarity. 

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The influence of Childhood on Adult Relationships

Shaver et al believes that the caregiving system refers to knowledge about how we care for others and this is learned through modelling of the primary caregiver. This relates to social learning theory, whereby we observe, identify and imitate the behaviour of the primary caregiver. The sexuality system is also learned via our primary caregiver, for example someone who developed an insecure avoidant attachment is more likely to think that sex without love is pleasurable. Qualter and Munn argue that children also learn from those around them i.e. peers. In this way, they may develop a sense of identity and value from interactions with peers – this affects how they approach adult relationships. Friendships in childhood are training grounds for important adult relationships, characterized by affection, alliance and intimacy. 

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The influence of Childhood on Adult Relationships

Simpson et al’s longitudinal research supports the importance of early attachments in determining adult relationships. Children securely attached in infancy were rated as being more socially competent as children, who in turn were found to be closer to their friends it 16yrs, who in turn were more emotionally attached and expressive in adult romantic relationships. 

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The influence of Childhood on Adult Relationships

There is research support from Fraley et al who found the importance of parental relationships, they did a meta-analysis and found correlations between 0.10 and 0.50 between attachment types and later relationships, the reason for the low correlation us that insecure avoidant attachment it so unstable. 

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The influence of Childhood on Adult Relationships

Kirkpatrick and Hazan raised a question relating to research into parental relationships about the stability of attachment types. It could be that current relationships determine attachment types which is why happily married couples are so secure, this raises the issue of causation. Relationship breakups were associated with a shift from secure to insecure attachment.

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The influence of Childhood on Adult Relationships

Richard and Schneider argue that there are gender differences in childhood relationships. Girls have more intimate friendships than boys and are more likely to report care and security in their relationships. Boys relationships tend to be more competitive whereas girls play is more cooperative. However some believe that differences have been over emphasises and similarities ignored –alpha bias. 

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The influence of Childhood on Adult Relationships

Quinton and Rutter suggest that these ideas are quite deterministic as they suggest that early experiences have a fixed effect on adult relationships. Research suggests that positive experiences in early adulthood can lead to different developmental pathways. Early effects can be overcome by good experiences from adult relationships, therefore the past does not unalterable determine the future.

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