Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships

By Ralph Erber ; Robin Gilmour | Go to book overview

early working models, their modifiability throughout the life span is also recognized. Therefore, it seems unwise to assume that only the early components of attachment to parents have long-lasting effects, and that effects of profound intimate friendships would not affect the style of the personal relationships at the adult phase.

Perhaps one may examine the transitions through the life cycle as the reorganization of intimacy in relationships that occurs as a result of (a) the addition of sexuality and (b) the addition of commitment. In our studies, it seemed that the intimacy component of close relationships shifted from same-gender friends to opposite-gender friends when sexuality arose, and to spouses and partners when commitment was made. The term shift emphasized the zerosum element: less intimacy with same-gender friends and more intimacy with spouse ( Sharabany, Friedman, & Eshel, 1985, 1986). Having recognized intimacy as consisting of several components, we suggest similar continuities rather than identical phases. Rather than the transition being in phases and figures, there is continuity from one aspect to another (e.g., trust with mother leading to openness with spouse, both being components of intimacy; Sharabany et al., 1992).


SUMMARY

In this chapter, I tried to relate three different theories: object relations, attachment, and interpersonal relationships. I tried to see how all three theories considered the various close relationships to different figures formed through the phases of the life span. I specifically examined two transitional points within intimate relationships: (a) transition from attachment to parents to intimate relationships with peers; and (b) transition from intimate friendships of same gender to opposite-gender relationships, which are often called love. These two transitional points seem to call for a convergence of the three different points of view and for an integration of theories, which on the surface seem to be different. However, these intersections of transition, from early attachment to intimate relationships and from intimate friendships to adult love, appear to warrant the consideration of all three perspectives.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Part of this article was written while the author was a visiting scholar at the Block Project, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley; and at the Department of Social Sciences, Maquarie University, Sydney, Australia. The study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health grant HM 16080 to Jack and Jean H. Block. An early version of this chapter was presented as keynote address at the International Conference on Personal

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