What is an attachment? An enduring emotional tie with a significant other e.g. a parent or lover.
Why are early attachments important? There is evidence that the kind of attachments you form early in your life affect the kind of relationships you have later in your life.
How do early attachments affect relationships? Children that form no attachments (privation) can grow up have significant problems with relationships due to poor social and language skills. Children who experience deprivation (because they are separated from an attachment figure) can grow up to suffer from problems such as depression (where they withdraw from others) or emotionless psychopathy (where they show a lack of consideration of others). Children who develop and maintain attachments are more likely to grow up to have productive relationships.
Attachment Types Generally, having an attachment is better than having no attachment at all. However, there are different types of attachment. Research suggests that certain types of attachment lead to better relationships.
There are three main types of attachment: Type A:Insecure Avoidant Type B:Secure Type C:Insecure Ambivalent
What type of attachment are you? Type A:Insecure Avoidant Type B:Secure Type C:Insecure Ambivalent
Insecure Avoidant When I was younger… I was quite independent. I didn’t rely on my parents/carers that much. I didn’t get that upset about strangers looking after me. My parents/carers were not that emotional. I didn’t tend to tell my parents/carers how I felt.
Secure When I was younger… My parents/carers made me feel safe. I had a close relationship with my parents/carers. My parents/carers were sensitive to my needs. I trusted other people besides my parents/carers. My parents/carers seemed to understand where I was coming from.
Insecure Ambivalent When I was younger… I was quite clingy. I was quite demanding. I was easily distressed. I was wary of people who were not that familiar to me. I used to play up my parents/carers.
How common is each attachment type? INSECURE AVOIDANT SECURE INSECURE AMBIVALENT 15% 70% 15%
Core Study In Attachment Hazen & Shaver (1987) “Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process.”
Aim Hazen & Shaver wanted to show that type of attachment that a person had in infancy had an effect on the type of romantic relationships they would form in the future.
Hypothesis They predicted that people who had experienced secure attachments in childhood would have more secure romantic relationships that those who had experienced insecure attachments.
Method They carried out a survey using a questionnaire. The questionnaire was printed as a ‘love quiz’ in a local American newspaper.
Method The questionnaire assessed attachment type in infancy using a checklist. The questionnaire also measured attitudes to people’s most important romantic relationship using multi-choice questions.
Method 1200 replies to the ‘love quiz’ questionnaire were sent in. Approximately half of these were analysed.
Results Anxious Avoidant feared intimacy in romantic relationships were jealous of romantic partners were more likely to report that they got along ok by themselves
Results Secure reported friendly, happy romantic relationships were more accepting of their romantic partners had longer romantic relationships on average and were less likely to get divorced
Results Insecure Ambivalent more likely to be obsessive in romantic relationship experienced extreme attraction but also extreme jealousy had shortest romantic relationships on average and were most likely to get divorced
Conclusion There is an association between attachment type in infancy and the nature of romantic relationships in adult life. Hazen & Shaver’s theory was that early relationships with carers provides a mental template that is then used for future relationships. This means securely attached children tend to go on to have more successful and fulfilling romantic relationships whereas insecure children tend not to.
Evaluation The sample was mainly females and all were self-selecting respondents… so findings may not generalise to the rest of the population. Respondents were only asked about their most important romantic relationships… so it may not be representative of others. Relationships were assessed through closed questions… which may have been too simple for something so complex. Respondents were required to recall features of their attachment in childhood… but because its retrospective it may be unreliable. The questions were quite personal… so respondents may have been tempted to lie (especially as they were not traceable) leading to invalid results.