Implications of Early Attachment for Later Relationship Quality

Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Basic Books.
Chapter 11, “The Child’s Tie to His Mother: Attachment Behavior” (pp. 198–209)
Chapter 12, “Nature and Function of Attachment Behavior” (pp. 210–234)
Attachment and Loss, Vol. 1: Attachment, 3rd Edition by Bowlby, J. Copyright 1982 by Hachette Books Groups. Reprinted by permission of Hachette Books Groups via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Groh, A. M., Pasco Fearon, R. M., IJzendoorn, M. H. van, Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Roisman, G. I. (2017). Attachment in the early life course: Meta-analytic evidence for its role in socioemotional development. Child Development Perspectives, 11(1), 70–76. doi: 10.1111/cdep.12213
Attachment in the Early Life Course: Meta-Analytic Evidence for Its Role in Socioemotional Development by Groh, Ashley M.; Fearon, R. M. Pasco; IJzendoorn, Marinus H.; Bakermans‐Kranenburg, Marian J.; Roisman, Glenn I., in Child Development Perspectives, Vol. 0/Issue 0. Copyright 2016 by John Wiley & Sons – Journals. Reprinted by permission of John Wiley & Sons – Journals via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Keller, H. (2014). Introduction: Understanding relationships—What we would need to know to conceptualize attachment as the cultural solution of a universal developmental task. In H. Otto & H. Keller (Eds.), Different faces of attachment: Cultural variations on a universal human need (pp. 1–24). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Different Faces of Attachment: Cultural Variations on a Universal Human Need, by Otto, H.; Keller, H. Copyright 2014 by Cambridge University Press. Reprinted by permission of Cambridge University Press via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Thompson, R. A. (2016). Early attachment and later development: Reframing the questions. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (3rd ed., pp. 330–348). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications, 3rd Edition by Cassidy, J.; Shaver, P. R. Copyright 2016 by Guilford Publications, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Guilford Publications, Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Discussion Spark: Primary Caregiver Attachment

Discussion 1: Implications of Early Attachment for Later Relationship Quality

The fact that infants form an attachment to their primary caregivers during the first year of life is well established and understood in the field of human development. Not only has research consistently found evidence of this bond, but anyone who has spent time with parents and their babies can clearly see the special ways infants interact with their parents compared to the ways they interact with strangers. It is widely accepted that we have an inborn social nature that leads us through the attachment stages in the first year. This attachment occurs cross-culturally, although variations exist in the ways the attachment bond is expressed (e.g., kissing versus touching).

The salience of this initial bond in infancy has prompted an abundance of work among developmental psychologists to try to understand the implications of this initial attachment bond for social and emotional development and relationship success later on in life. In this area, however, the research is inconclusive and sometimes contradictory. Some research suggests that individuals who display a secure attachment in infancy are more socially and emotionally competent in adulthood. For example, one study found that the type of attachment in infancy predicted social competence at age 11 as rated by camp counselors (Elicker, Englund, & Sroufe, 1992). Another comprehensive study found that early secure attachment was linked with healthy emotional development, high levels of self-esteem, and social competence with romantic partners (Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005). Other research has drawn different conclusions. For example, a study by Lewis (1997) found that insecurely attached infants did not necessarily have the same attachment classification at age 18. They explained that many intervening factors can arise to change one’s attachment classification, such as the experience of a parental divorce or an increase or change in the responsiveness of caregivers in childhood.

In this Discussion, you explore research that specifically describes the links between early attachment and relationship quality in adolescence and adulthood. You also look at specific intervening factors that have been found to help explain why attachment is not universally predictive of later relationship quality.

To Prepare:

  • Select one type of relationship: adolescent peer relationship, romantic relationships in adulthood, child/parent relationships focusing on the adult’s attachment, or adult sibling relationships.
  • Consider how an initial caregiver/infant attachment bond may impact these relationships later in life.
By Day 3

Post the relationship you selected. Explain the implications of the early attachment bond for relationship dynamics in the relationship you selected. Identify at least two intervening factors that help explain why early attachment is not necessarily predictive of your chosen relationship. Provide evidence from the literature to support your arguments.

“Get 15% discount on your first 3 orders with us”
Use the following coupon

Order Now