It is the opinion of many that the outcome of our relationships all depend on us as an individual. That whether we fail or succeed is a side effect of our personalities. If we’re prone to breakups, it’s due to our not-so-pleasant traits, and if we experience stable, loving relationships, then we’re a good person and a well-functioning member of society. In this day and age, we place a lot of importance on bettering ourselves in order to please our significant other, but what if there’s nothing we can do to change our relationship patterns? What if it’s all a product of our childhoods?
There’s no doubt that early experiences influence behaviour. It’s a fact that humans learn from our pasts. Many psychologists believe that the attachment we form to our parents (or caregivers) can irrevocably effect our relationships as adults. Attachment Theory is a widely excepted concept that explains just how relationships in early life and later life are connected.
In Attachment Theory, there are 3 main types of proposed attachment. These are secure, insecure ambivalent, and insecure avoidant.
Secure attachment Style
A child who is securely attached will experience distress when separated from a parents and is easily calmed when their parent returns. This is the most common type of attachment, as well as is the healthiest. Secure attachment is also the most desirable type as it shows that the child has developed a normal relationship with parents, and can mean that they will be able to develop good relationships when they’re older, as found by Hazen and Shaver (1980).
In this study, they discovered that those with a secure attachment as a child tended to have better self-esteem and a more positive view of their partners as an adult.
Insecure Ambivalent or Avoidant Attachment Style
On the other hand, those who had an insecure ambivalent or avoidant attachment as a child weren’t so lucky. Research found that people who experienced these attachments suffered from low self-esteem and mistrust, and often tended to suppress their feelings. They also experienced a higher rate of relationship failure than those of a secure attachment type. Therefore, this study demonstrates just how influential our parents may be on our relationships in later life.
Flaws of The Study
However, the results of this study may lack reliability for a number of reasons. Hazen and Shaver advertised the experiment as a ‘Love Quiz’, and so the same kind of person may have responded to it. This means that the results can’t be generalised globally as the participants may have the same kind of personality traits. The quiz also asked very personal questions, meaning that the participants may have lied in order to impress (this is known as social desirability bias and many questionnaires include this flaw).
John Bowlby, the ‘founder’ of these attachment types, also suggested that those who are unable to attach (because of things such as adoption or neglect) become “affection-less psychopaths”. He based this theory off of his 44 Juvenile Thieves experiment (1944), but this study was extremely flawed and lacks temporal validity so it can’t really be applied to modern day life. The assumption that not forming attachment leads to psychopathy is not only highly offensive but widely untrue, as many children who have been unable to form attachment go on to lead successful lives with successful relationships, such as the famous Czech Twins.
So can Attachment Theory really be used if it’s based on such unreliable and outdated ideas?
Do you believe your relationships in early life so drastically affect your later ones? Will you love be doomed due to parenting style?