AQA A2 Psychology Unit 3 Relationships: The Influence Of Childhood Experiences On Later Adult Relationships Notes


AQA A2 Psychology Unit 3 Relationships: Influence of Childhood Experiences On Later Adult Relationships Notes

What You Need To Know:

  • The influence of childhood and adolescent experiences on adult relationships, including parent-child relationships and interaction with peers.

Parent-child relationships:

The years after birth are a time of rapid social and emotional development, and what happens now can leave impressions which last into adulthood. Attachment theory suggests that the attachment styles we learn as children become an internal working model for what we believe relationships are like.

Attachment stability:

Waters (2000) – 72% of adults retested 20 years after their attachment style was identified in childhood were given the same classification. Where there was a change it was related to negative events such as bereavement or parental divorce but, Lewis et al (2000) – found only a  42% stability when 18 year olds were retested 17 years after initial classification. But, changed classifications were also linked to negative personal events, particularly parental divorce.

Hazen and Shaver (1987) Linked attachment theory to adult relationships

Hazen and Shaver (1987) – attachment and adult relationships

Method:  Descriptions of three attitudes towards adult relationships were published in a newspaper. These attitudes were based on Ainsworth et al’s attachment types. Readers were asked to choose the attitude that best suited them. They were also asked to describe their relationships with their own caregivers.

Results: The attachment type that an individual had shown as a child was significantly related to how they felt about adult relationships. Those who showed a secure attachment type in childhood were more likely to enjoy secure relationships as an adult. Those with an anxious-avoidant attachment type in childhood were more likely to find it difficult to trust people in adult relationships. Those with an anxious-resistant attachment type in childhood were more likely to feel anxious in adult relationships and find it hard to get others as close to them as they wanted.

Conclusion: Relationships formed with parents during childhood affect relationships in adulthood.

Evaluation: The study was based on self-report data which is subjective and therefore may be unreliable. The data was also retrospective, further reducing the reliability of the study. Also, because the study relied on people replying to a newspaper article, the sample might not be representative of the whole population.

Attachment type and adult romantic relationships:


·         As adults these have the most short-term romantic relationships, and are more likely to have shorter courtship prior to marriage. (Senchak and Leonard, 1992).

·         They are likely to be particularly upset by and ultimately to reject unsupportive partners (Collins and Fenney, 2004).


·         As adults these are least likely to enter into a romantic relationship