Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Child Development, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships.

Description: Do you know a bit about attachment? The important work of Bowlby and Ainsworth suggests that, a consequence of the nature of their relationship with their primary caregiver(s) over the first two years of their lives, human infants develop a model of their attachment relationship that includes basic assumptions/beliefs about their care-worthiness, about the social usefulness (or lack thereof) of the people around them and about the value (or the lack thereof) of relationships in general. As a result, their attachment can be described as secure, avoidant, or anxious. The question of how those assumptions and style outcomes play out in future relationships and throughout life going forward from toddlerhood have been the focus of quite a bit of research but little work has been done looking at the large question of how stable these attachment patterns are throughout life (unlike questions of the stability of personality which have been the focus of quite a lot of research – see my recent post on that topic). So, what do you think? Will or how might experience in relationships through adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood and later life impact our attachment assumptions and styles? When you have your hypotheses sorted out have a read though the article linked below (or the research article it discusses which is noted and linked in the Reference section below).

Source: First Study To Investigate How Attachment Style Changes Through Multiple Decades of Life, Christian Jarrett, The British Psychological Society.

Date: November 20, 2019

Photo Credit: The British Psychological Society

Article Link:

So, did you notice the thoughtful steps taken by the researchers to find a way to look at their questions longitudinally rather than cross-sectionally? Cohort or socio-historical effects are important and often not front of mind when we are focused on matters of individual development. The possible relationships between relationship experiences and attachment issues are well discussed and this posting does a VERY good job of indicating and discussing a number of limitations (interpretive cautions) of the study  and that makes it easier to see what sorts of studies need to be done to further clarify the question of how attachment unfolds over the entire life-course.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What way might someone’s early attachment experiences (before 2 years of age) influence their later relationships (with friends in school, close relationships in adulthood and parenthood)?
  2. What are some ways in which accounts and theories of child development differ from accounts and theories of adult development?
  3. What sort of research needs to be done to verify and extend the findings of the study discussed in the article liked above?

References (Read Further):

Chopik, W. J., Edelstein, R. S., & Grimm, K. J. (2019). Longitudinal changes in attachment orientation over a 59-year period. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(4), 598.

Girme, Y. U., Agnew, C. R., VanderDrift, L. E., Harvey, S. M., Rholes, W. S., & Simpson, J. A. (2018). The ebbs and flows of attachment: Within-person variation in attachment undermine secure individuals’ relationship wellbeing across time. Journal of personality and social psychology, 114(3), 397.

Bachem, R., Levin, Y., & Solomon, Z. (2019). Trajectories of attachment in older age: interpersonal trauma and its consequences. Attachment & human development, 21(4), 352-371.

Van IJzendoorn, M. H. (1995). Adult attachment representations, parental responsiveness, and infant attachment: a meta-analysis on the predictive validity of the Adult Attachment Interview. Psychological bulletin, 117(3), 387.

Allen, J. P., & Miga, E. M. (2010). Attachment in adolescence: A move to the level of emotion regulation. Journal of social and personal relationships, 27(2), 181-190.

Scharf, M., & Mayseless, O. (2007). Putting eggs in more than one basket: A new look at developmental processes of attachment in adolescence. New directions for child and adolescent development, 2007(117), 1-22.