Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Attachment style is described as the way individuals manage emotional bonds with other people (Santrock, 2008). The initial process of bonding with parents or caregivers seems to have far-reaching implications for relational issues throughout life (Brandell, 2010; Fraley, 2010; Reyome, 2010; Riggs, 2010). This paper describes my personal attachment style, evaluates how genetic and environmental factors influenced its development, and how my attachment style affects my cognitive and social development.
Description of Personal Attachment Style
My personal attachment style as determined by the Adult Attachment Style Questionnaire (Fraley, n.d.) was secure, which seemed appropriate. Individuals with secure attachment styles are not typically concerned with rejection from a partner and they tend to be comfortable in emotionally close relationships (Rodriguez & Ritchie, 2009). Research has shown that when secure individuals face conflict, they are likely to problem solve using strategies such as compromising and encouraging mutual discussion and constructive communication (Carnelley, Pietromonaco, & Jaffe, 1994; Riggs, 2010). Additionally, secure individuals have a decreased potential for depressive symptoms and a far lower risk for psychological disorders throughout adulthood (Riggs, 2010). The questionnaire provided a realistic and accurate assessment of my natural tendencies in intimate and other relationships.
Contributing Genetic and Environmental Factors
I was endowed with good genes - both of my parents were calm, warm, loving people who had above average intelligence and the ability to think in progressive and effective ways. They were socially aware and had many friends and colleagues who respected and loved them. I had a close to ideal family environment as a child: my parents were particularly responsive to my needs and my opinions were always respected and valued. I was not ridiculed, mistreated, or abused, although I was held to high standards and was encouraged to behave appropriately and thoughtfully and to express my feelings in creative, honest, and constructive ways.
Research indicates a correlation between early attachment development in childhood and the capacity to form close attachments in adulthood (Brandel, 2010; Reyome, 2010; Riggs, 2010). Sullivan's developmental model placed critical importance on interpersonal relationships and how children, and later adults, construct ways to maintain relationships within the family and with others (Brandell, 2010). Because people have intrinsic psychological needs, they create ways to fulfill them, and if the needs are not met by psychologically healthy interactions, less effective unhealthy means are implemented (Brandell, 2010; Rodriguez & Ritchie, 2009). My childhood environment was conducive to psychological health and provided the emotional building blocks for future positive relationships.
Affect on Cognitive and Social Development
Research suggests that abuse during early childhood deeply affects an individual's future ability to bond with others, in effect, abuse influences social development (Reyome, 2010; Riggs, 2010). Furthermore, it may interfere with the individual's ability for emotional regulation, and may contribute to maladaptive emotional coping skills that may lead to psychological disorders (Riggs, 2010). Insecure individuals show a decreased ability for social information processing, such as careful listening (Riggs, 2010). Compounded with decreased emotional regulation, maladaptive coping skills, and a propensity to psychological disorders, maltreatment in childhood has a tremendous impact on social development and the ability to engage effectively in relationships in general (Brandell, 2010; Carnelley, Pietromonaco, & Jaffe, 1994; Riggs, 2010). In early childhood, children create norms and develop expectations according to the quality with which their needs are met, usually by the mother (Brandell, 2010). These norms and expectations are the templates by which individuals relate to others throughout their lives (Brandell, 2010; Reyome, 2010). When a mistreated individual consistently distorts self-perceptions and inaccurately interprets the behavior of others as threatening, they may engage in retaliatory behavior (Riggs, 2010).
As previously mentioned, I was raised in a warm, wholesome family environment in which personal expression was expected, valued, and appreciated. I grew up believing and experiencing that the most valuable relationships are the intimate ones I have with family and close friends. They are the safe harbors that naturally ameliorate the challenges of life. I developed highly positive expectations about intimacy, and my needs were mostly addressed. Because I learned that close relationships are safe, I perceive them accurately and as a non-threatening component of life. The pleasure I derive from close relationships has diffusely permeated my relationships in general, and I seek out and appreciate some level of intimacy in all of my relationships. Because I never developed abuse-related schemas in childhood, negative and threatening perceptions have never been activated in any of my relationships.
A growing amount of research links early childhood attachment and future relationship functioning (Carnelley, Pietromonaco, & Jaffe, 1994). The convergence of opinion is that attachment to the mother (or significant caregiver) has a tremendous influence on an individual's future ability to intimately relate to others (Brandell, 2010). In closing, I have even more respect for my parents and their parenting skills. I also take a little pride in my own efforts to offer to my own children, the same learning environment so they, too will have the capacity to engage in intimacy and bonding without fear or apprehension.
Brandell, J. R. (2010). Contemporary psychoanalytic perspectives on attachment. Psychoanalytic Social Work, 17, 132–157. doi: 10.1080/15228878.2010.512265
Carnelley, K., Pietromonaco, P., & Jaffe, K. (1994). Depression, working models of others, and relationship functioning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 127–140. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.168
Fraley, R. C. (n.d.). Attachment Style. Attachment Style. Retrieved October 18, 2012, from http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl
Fraley, R. C. (2010). A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research. R. Chris Fraley/University of Illinois. Retrieved October 18, 2012, from http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm
Reyome, N. D. (2010). The effect of childhood emotional maltreatment on the emerging attachment system and later intimate relationships. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 19, 1–4.
Riggs, S. A. (2010). Childhood emotional abuse and the attachment system across the life cycle: What theory and research tell us. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 19, 5– 51. doi: 10.1080/10926770903475968
Rodriguez, P. D., & Ritchie, K. (2009). Relationship between coping styles and adult attachment styles. Journal of the Indiana Academy of Social Sciences, 13, 131–141.
Santrock, J. W. (2008). A topical approach to life-span development (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.