Attachment to Parents and Peers in Late Adolescence and Their Relationship with Self-Image

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INTRODUCTION

Interpersonal relationships have been viewed by investigators as a primary means through which people develop identity and positive self-image throughout the life-span (Youniss, 1980; O'Donnell, 1976). Some researchers have discussed the concept of interpersonal relationship from the perspective of attachment relationships, beginning in infancy with attachment to primary caregivers (Bowlby, 1982; Greenberg, Siege], & Leitch, 1983). It has been noted that a sense of security with an attachment figure seems to instill the positive self-image in which a person feels good about him or herself in a variety of adjustment areas including body image, vocational/educational goals, and social relationships (Offer, Ostrov, Howard, & Dolan, 1992).

As children enter adolescence, they begin to form more sustaining relationships with peers than they had at prior stages of development (Blyth, 1982; Berndt, 1982; Furman & Buhrmester, 1992). During this period, new relationships develop because adolescents have greater opportunities for independence from parents and are more able to see themselves as part of a larger community of people. Some of these people, particularly peers, involved in the new relationships may become new sources of trust. Adolescents need these new support relationships since information or support from a parent may no longer be as relevant (Cotterell, 1992). They also need these relationships to help establish their identity; by comparing opinions and values with others, teenagers can learn what makes them unique (Piaget, 1965).

The development of enhanced relationships with others may not come easily for some adolescents. A possible intervention to help develop interpersonal relationships are interpersonal groups, such as task-oriented, social-recreational, and therapeutic groups. What makes institutional groups different from informal peer groups, like cliques, is that they bring people together who may have not otherwise developed relationships. Further, these groups can provide the social skills and positive self-image which may enhance other relationships.

The first goal of this study was to examine the effects of parent and peer attachment on self-image in adolescence. A second goal of the study was to examine differences in self-image and attachment between males and females. The third goal was to take a preliminary look at how institutional groups can enhance attachment and support relationships and self-image.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Interpersonal Relationships in Child and Adolescent Development

The concept of interpersonal relationships as a primary contributor to well-being has been discussed in the literature (Youniss, 1980; Youniss & Smollar, 1985; O'Donnell, 1976; Offer et al., 1992; Blyth, 1982; Cauce, Felner, & Primavera, 1982; Greenberg et al., 1983; Raja, McGee, & Stanton, 1992). According to Youniss, relationships and interactions with others are the ways people develop their own opinions and values. Attachment relationships, based on intense and long-lasting affectional bonds, have been found, in particular, to have positive effects on self-esteem (Cassidy, 1988) and emotional adjustment (Sroufe, Fox, & Pancake, 1983). The role of attachment on adjustment, introduced by Bowlby (1982) has recently included examinations of attachment to parents and peers during adolescence (Kahn & Antonucci, 1980; Greenberg et al., 1983).

Attachment to Parents During Adolescence

Greenberg et al. (1983) examined how attachment is related to well-being during adolescence. It was found that parent attachment had a stronger relationship to well-being than did peer attachment. According to Greenberg et al. (1983), attachment to parents depends not on proximity but on emotional ties. Armsden and Greenberg (1987), through the development of the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment, determined that strong parent-adolescent attachment relationships allowed adolescents to independently to seek out and thrive in new situations. …