The Role of Attachment on Personal Relationships
Attachmentor bonding during early childhood programs a person to bond with a significant person. During infancy stage, one develops attachment to the primary caregiver. The relationship between the two is characterized by expression of different emotions like fear, sadness, anger, and joy especially following a period of separation. Infants develop either secure or insecure attachments with the mother or caregiver. Secure attachment is characterized by stable personality and a sense of security while insecure attachment is characterized by inability to regulate distress, and a sense of personal inefficacy in handling discomfort. The kind of attachment between the infant and the caregiver lays the foundation for infant’s future personal relationships, including intimate or romantic relationships as discussed in this paper. Attachment in Shaping Infant’s brain on Relationships The relationship between the caregiver and the infant offers foundation for personal relationships by influencing the infant’s cognitive and socio-emotional development (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013). According to Bretherton (1992), this opinion is supported by Bowlby who emphasized that “if mental development is to proceed smoothly, it would appear to be necessary for the undifferentiated psyche to be exposed during certain critical periods to the influence of the psychic organizer-the mother.” This implies that the caretaker influences the conditioning of the brain in responding to security and comfort, balance emotions, and create positive expectations and memories of relationships (Bretherton, 1992). Parenting is essential in the development of attachment, which is crucial in personal relationships. Parenting can be characterized by mutual enjoyment between the mother and the infant, as children need continuous and close relationship with the mother (Mikulincer et al, 2006). This is because, maternal sensitivity contributes to the infant’s security which is characterized by interaction patterns between the mother and the infant (Bretherton, 1992). For instance, on the Nature of the Child’s Tie to His Mother, Bowlby argued that the “behavior of 1-2 months olds is made up of instinctual responses that act as bonding the mother to the infant and the mother to the infant” (Bretherton, 1992). Therefore, the way the mother adjusts to the infant’s cues and responds to the stimuli which is either intrapsychic or external, and social releasers can lead to the activation or termination of specific instinctual responses (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013). The mother’s behavior acts as motivation to the infant’s behavior regulation hence defines the domains of the attachment (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013). This can either strengthen or weaken the development of adult relationships. For example, relationship characterized by verbal and non-verbal communication (like vocalization and facial expression) tends to create affectionate and satisfying relationship or rejection (Mikulincer et al, 2006). Secure Attachment Style and the Connection to Relationships The attachment in early childhood is characterized by separation anxiety (Bretherton, 1992). An infant response to separation is protest (separation anxiety), despair (grief and mourning), and denial or detachment which is characterized by defense mechanisms like repression (Bretherton, 1992). The different kinds of attachment include secure, ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized. Infants develop ways of exploring the environment when assurance is provided through “the direct proximity-promoting signals which are fairly indiscriminately to all caregivers” (Bretherton, 1992). The positive experiences between the child and the caretaker help the child in developing trust in the self and in the world (Van der Horst et al, 2008). For instance, interaction between the mother and the infant helps in the development of secure foundation for the exploration of the environment and how to offer reassurance to others in adult relationships (Bretherton, 1992).Thus, Secure attachment usually develops when parenting style is aligned with the child’s emotions (Van der Horst et al, 2008). The security in attachment develops when the caregiver or an adult nurtures responsive and sensitive to the child’s stimuli especially when in distress (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013). As a result, there is development of stable personality, which maintains continuity throughout life (Bettmann & Friedman, 2010). Infants who are securely attached cry less and explore their mother’s presence (Bretherton, 1992). Additionally, according to Bowlby & Ainsworth (2013), Bowlby argues that though a well-loved child can protest separation, the child learns to develop self-reliance, which is an important aspect in relationships. Based on Security Theory by Ainsworth (Bretherton, 1992), secure relationship usually develops when in the presence of secure dependence on the parents by the parents before exploring unfamiliar situation for forming new interests and skills; thus, if the familiar security is absent, then that infant is handicapped in future relationships (Bretherton, 1992). Bowlby & Ainsworth (2013) echoes this by arguing that, the secure attachment is characterized by the ability to create meaningful or empathetic relationships that are able to set the right boundaries in adulthood. Therefore, secure attachment acts as “inner resource” in helping individuals handle personal relationships. Insecure attachment Style and Connection to Relationships The different types of attachment under insecure attachment include ambivalent, disorganized, and avoidant attachment. According to Bowlby & Ainsworth (2013), insecure attachment is characterized by “unstable and inadequate regulations of distress by the caretaker, and personal inefficiency in relieving discomfort.” These incidents may interfere with the growth of inner resources essential for developing coping mechanisms or adaptation to stressful events in relationships (Grossmann et al, 2006). For instance, maternal separation and deprivation influences the transmission of attachment (Bowlby, 1953). Since the child is dependent to the mother during early childhood, the mother orients the child by providing environment that allows the satisfaction of some impulses while restricting others; thus, a skilled parent transfers the role of self-regulation in personal relationships to a child (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013). According to Bretherton (1992), Bowlby argues, “the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother in whom both find satisfaction and enjoyment.” Bettmann & Friedman (2010) summarizes the characteristics of people with insecure behavior as characterized by loneliness, negative affect, pathological narcissism, shame, fear, and anger of negative evaluation. Ambivalent attachment The infants having “no differential behavior to the mother” characterize ambivalent attachment (Bettmann & Friedman, 2010). The infants usually present insecure adaptive patterns in utilizing the caregiver’s care. This could be due to inconsistent caregiver attention or rejection (Bretherton, 1992). This could be justified by Bowlby’s Separation Anxiety theory which maintains that extreme separation anxiety among infants could be due to unpleasant family experiences like rejection, abandonment by parents or death or sibling’s illness characterized by guilty or feeling responsible (Bretherton, 1992). Ambivalent attachment is also characterized by negative perception of the self, “indication of distress in the presence of conflict and disagreement and unlikelihood to use partners as sources of reassurance in anxiety-arousing of distress in situations that might decrease the psychological distance from attachment figures” (Grossmann et al, 2006). Additionally, when the ambivalent individuals are faced with uncontrollable or irreversible situations, they react with extreme emotional distress, which continues even with the termination of the actual threat (Mikulincer et al, 2006). As a result, this
may affect personal relationships due to the inability to set aside the distress (Grossmann et al, 2006). Avoidant Attachment In the avoidant attachment, the Infants develop ways of responding to social interaction. According to Bretherton (1992), and Van der Horst et al (2008), early childhood adaptive strategies may fail to work in adulthood as the function of insecurely attached people may influence others “to reinforce their internal working models” leading to reduced social support. However, the individuals can develop working models in addressing untrustworthy or threatening nature of the significant others, like maintaining distance from relationships and attachment figures, which can lead to distress (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013). Though the avoidant reaction to threatening situation might minimize the explicit expression of distress, they are likely not to offer permanent solution in the “mitigation of internalized sources of attachment pain and insecurity” (Van der Horst et al, 2008). The suppressed insecurity and pain is usually portrayed in personal relationships and it is characterized by lack of emotional connection, intolerance, rigidity, and critical behavior in relationships (Van der Horst et al, 2008). As a result, since avoidant people are difficult to handle, they face rejection in relationships. Disorganized Attachment Disorganized attachment develops when parents ignore the infant or the parental behavior is traumatizing or frightening. It is characterized by explosive, abusive, insensitive, chaotic, and untrusting behavior even when there is need for security (Mikulincer et al, 2006). Undefined attachment leads to disorganized orientation in personal relationships (Grossmann et al, 2006). Effects of Attachment on Adult Romantic relationships The satisfying and affectionate relationship between the infant and the caregiver influences the development of meaningful relationships in adulthood, like romantic or adult relationships. For instance, relationships characterized by verbal and non-verbal communication (like vocalization and facial expression) tend to create affectionate and satisfying relationship or rejection (Bretherton, 1992). The experiences during the romantic attachment process are determined by early childhood experiences (Bettmann & Friedman, 2010). Additionally, the positive perceptions on relationships are related to the level of attachment a person has had in childhood (Grossmann et al, 2006). According to Bretherton (1992), Bowlby argues that “attachment is not indicative of regression; hut rather performs a natural, healthy function in adult life.” In addition, Ainsworth notes that attachment is effective in a person’s lifetime as it affects the development of significant connections with others like in romantic relationships (Grossmann et al, 2006). However, the behaviors that sustain attachment to the significant others change through the different stages in life (Bowlby & Ainsworth, 2013). Hazan and Shaver explored Bowlby’s concepts in the perspective of Romantic relationships. The romantic relationship which is characterized by emotional bond is due to the “motivational system-the attachment behavioral system” developed by the attachment between the infant and the caregiver” (Bettmann & Friedman, 2010). The sense of security in attachment might develop into a strong sense of self-efficacy and control, optimistic expectations and self-confidence when seeking help from others in case of needs (Mikulincer et al, 2006). According to Bettmann & Friedman (2010), Hazan and Shaver emphasized that romantic love was part of attachment behavioral system and motivational systems, which result to sexuality and care giving. Just like in the relationship between the caregiver and the infant, romantic relationships are characterized by engaging in close, bodily, and intimate contact (Mikulincer et al, 2006). Additionally, the feeling of being safe when one is responsive and nearby is common in both attachments while insecurity is common with the absence of one party (Grossmann et al, 2006). Finally, in both attachments, the stakeholders share discoveries, non-verbal communication is essential tool of communication and there is engagement in “baby talk” (Bettmann & Friedman, 2010). Therefore, attachment affects the development of romantic relationships. Conclusion Attachment is essential in the development of personal relationships. The insecure attachment is characterized by a sense of security, self-efficacy, self-confidence, and self-control. On the other hand, insecure relationship is characterized by loneliness, negative affect or pathological narcissism, shame, fear, and anger of negative evaluation. For instance, ambivalent and avoidant attachments are characterized by mistrusting and negative views of both the human nature and the social world. Finally, the satisfying and affectionate relationship between the infant and the caregiver influences the development of meaningful relationships in adulthood like romantic or adult relationships. Reference Bettmann, J. E., & Friedman, D. D. (2010). Preface to the special issue on child and adolescent attachment. Clinical social work journal, 38(1), 1-3. Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28(5), 759. Bowlby, J., & Ainsworth, M. (2013). The origins of attachment theory. Attachment Theory: Social, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives, 45. Grossmann, K. E., Grossmann, K., & Waters, E. (Eds.). (2006). Attachment from infancy to adulthood: The major longitudinal studies. Guilford Press. Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., & Slav, K. (2006). Attachment, mental representations of others, and gratitude and forgiveness in romantic relationships. Dynamics of romantic love: Attachment, care giving, and sex, 190-215. Van der Horst, F. C., LeRoy, H. A., & Van der Veer, R. (2008). “When strangers meet”: John Bowlby and Harry Harlow on attachment behavior. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 42(4), 370-388.
Use the order calculator below and get started! Contact our live support team for any assistance or inquiry.[order_calculator]