Intersections with Attachment

By Jacob L. Gewirtz; William M. Kurtines | Go to book overview

( 1988), but the emphasis of those presentations has been less on processes of attachment and developmental change in attachment relationships, and more on the significance of individual differences in attachment security. The current presentation diverges also in specifying the place of attachment relations within a social network context and in incorporating existing knowledge about social support in the analysis of life-span attachment relations.

Within the proposed model of close relationships, the major underlying process is hypothesized to be the establishment and maintenance of expectations about the relationship, forged through familiarity with one's relationship partner, mutually contingent feedback, and cultural norms regarding appropriate relationship behavior, and colored by one's past relationship experiences. Relationships are stabilized and given continuity through such regulating processes as mutual adaptation, modulation of conflict, and maintenance of behavior within the limits of the partner's tolerance. Stabilizing factors outside the relationship also serve to maintain relationship continuity. Developmental changes in existing relationships and structural changes over the life span in one's close relationship circle are hypothesized to ensue from changes in cognitive ability, individual maturation, age-related norms, and changes in the ability to modulate conflict. Change may also occur as a function of nonnormative events or changes in one or both of the relationship partners.

The presence of at least one close relationship contributes to the individual's well-being. Attachment relationships at any point in the life span serve the function of providing the individual with a secure base from which to encounter the inevitable stresses of life. As with infants, relationships across the life span vary in the extent to which they actually provide this for the individual.

In conclusion, this discussion was intended to facilitate and give substance to a life-span perspective on attachment and close relationships. The proposed intersections of infant attachment theory with models of close relationships and social support in adulthood are in need of empirical verification. In particular, the longitudinal tracking of inner circle relations and the expectations that may govern those relations is required, in addition to further research addressing the distinction between close relationships and other convoy relationships. Research on the contribution of attachment relationships to personal well-being at different life stages is also needed. Whether or not the specific arguments and hypotheses forwarded here will withstand the test of empirical scrutiny, it is hoped that this chapter will provide encouragement for researchers to further pursue the development of attachment relations across the life span.


REFERENCES

Ainsworth M. D. S. ( 1983). "Patterns of infant-mother attachment as related to maternal care: Their early history and their contribution to continuity". In D. Magnusson & V. L. Allen (Eds.), Human development: An interactional perspective (pp. 35-57). New York: Academic Press.

Ainsworth M. D. S. ( 1989). "Attachments beyond infancy". American Psychologist, 44, 709-716.

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