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Attachment and Close Relationships: A Life Span Perspective Levitt, M. J. (1991). Attachment and close relationships: A life-span perspective. In J. L.

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Presentation on theme: "Attachment and Close Relationships: A Life Span Perspective Levitt, M. J. (1991). Attachment and close relationships: A life-span perspective. In J. L."— Presentation transcript:

1 Attachment and Close Relationships: A Life Span Perspective Levitt, M. J. (1991). Attachment and close relationships: A life-span perspective. In J. L. Gerwitz & W. M. Kurtines (Eds.), Intersections with attachment (pp ). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

2 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Abstract Intersections of infant attachment theory with models of close relationships and social support in adulthood are proposed within the framework of the social convoy model elaborated by Kahn and Antonucci (1980). Close relationships across the life span are viewed as continuations of early attachment relations, governed by similar processes and serving similar functions. The primary process is hypothesized to be the establishment and maintenance of relationship expectations, forged through familiarity with relationship partners and mutually contingent feedback, and influenced by cultural norms and past relationship experiences. Relationships are thought to be stabilized and given continuity through mutual adaptation to partner expectations, modulation of conflict, and maintenance of behavior within the limits of partner tolerance. Developmental changes in existing relationships and structural changes over the life course in the individual's circle of close relationships are thought to ensue from changes in cognitive ability, individual maturation, and age ‑ related social norms. Changes in the ability to modulate conflict may also play a role in the evolution of relationships. Consistent with an attachment model personal well ‑ being is hypothesized to be related primarily to close relationships rather than to support networks as a whole, and data are cited to suggest that one such relationship may be sufficient.

3 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Introduction  Life span theory has described significance of “social support network”.  “Social support convoy” is suggested as a substitute phrase because it emphasizes “the importance of viewing the social network as a dynamic structure that changes with the development of the individual and alterations in the environment” (p. 184).  The convoy model is influenced by theories of attachment and social roles.  Dyadic relationships are seen as the basic units for convoy structure and function.  The model predicts continuity and change in convoy relationships.

4 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Attachment Relationships  Definition of attachment relationships: “those which, if severed, would precipitate the marked affective behavioral disruption labeled as grief” (p. 184).  Conceptualization of support convoy for research purposes: a series of concentric circles with the individual at the center (see Figure 10.1 on p. 185).  Level of influence is assessed by subjective placement of close relationships by the respondent.  Distinction between close relationships and other relationships: close relationships share a common general factor that includes “interpersonal communication, shared understanding and affectional exchange, mutual fostering of personal growth, and emotional and instrumental support” (p. 186).

5 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Research Related to Social Support Convoy  Evidence seems to offer support for characteristics of a close relationship.  Provision of care when ill seems to be completed by the person identified as closest to respondent.  Number of persons placed in the inner circle of the social convoy diagram seems to be close family members and occasionally one or two close friends.  Number of persons placed in the inner circle of the social convoy diagram seems to be limited (one average 3-5 individuals). Parents are typically placed in the inner circle.

6 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Hypotheses to Investigate Attachment Relationships Across the Life Span  The individual exists within a social convoy from the beginning of life. Parents exert a direct influence on availability of other social relationships.  The infant develops a limited number of attachment relationships with specific convoy members. These relationships form the initial core of the individual’s social convoy.  “Inner circle relationships change as a function of change within the individuals involved or alterations in the external environment. These include both idiosyncratic changes, and normative changes associated with maturation, aging, and the imposition of age-related norms” (p. 192).

7 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Hypotheses (cont.)  The boundaries of one’s inner circle are permeable and movement into it is governed by the processes that govern attachment formation and dissolution.  Once established, relationships are stabilized and maintained by core relationships.

8 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Attachment Processes  Infant and adult relationships are characterized by reciprocity of exchange. Basic assumptions:  Adult relationships are governed by processes of reciprocal exchange.  Individuals are aware of equity or inequity within the relationship. Lack of equity can lead to dissolution of the relationship.  These mutually contingent response patterns seem to influence attachment.  It seems clear that capacity for maintaining relationships is not equivalent between infant and caregiver.  Caregiving may seem one-sided in the short- term but long-term expectations influence perceptions of equity.

9 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Attachment Processes (cont.)  Generalized Expectancy Model:  Contingent responding by caretaker is thought to reinforce a child’s general expectations about self-efficacy.  Contingent responding by caretaker may also influence generalized expectations about the nature of the caregiver-child relationship.  In adults, shared expectations about contingent feedback are built during early phases of the relationship when responsiveness and self-disclosure are high. è Expectations are maintained through communication and mutual accommodation. This occurs less often over time. è As relationships change over time, so do expectations.

10 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Relationship Change and Continuity Across the Life-Span

11 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Close Relationships and Personal Well-Being  Research suggests that attachment is associated with well-being, but research on well-being also suggests that social important is important.  Close relationships seem to be more important predictors of well-being than general support networks.  Category of close relationship (e.g., mother, father) does not seem to be critical: “What is suggested is that personal well-being across the life span, as well as in infancy, is dependent on the presence of at least one close relationship” (p. 199).

12 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Conclusions  Close relationships across the life span can be conceptualized as attachment relationships because they seem to be governed by similar processes and serve similar functions.  The presence of at least one close relationship contributes to individual well- being.  Proposed major underlying process: “establishment and maintenance of expectations about the relationship, forged through familiarity with one’s relationship partner, mutually contingent feedback, and cultural norms regarding appropriate relationship behavior, and colored by one’s past relationship experiences” (p. 200).

13 Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson Conclusions  Relationships are stabilized and given continuity via regulating processes (e.g., mutual adaptation, modulation of conflict).  Factors outside the relationship also contribute to stabilization.  Developmental changes in existing relationships and structural relationships across the life span in close relationships are influenced by  changes in individual cognitive ability;  individual maturation;  age-related norms;  changes in ability to modulate conflict.


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