Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Parental Attachment, Self-Worth, and Depressive Symptoms among Emerging Adults

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Parental Attachment, Self-Worth, and Depressive Symptoms among Emerging Adults

Article excerpt

Efforts to evaluate the tenets of attachment theory have contributed to a growing body of research documenting the contributions of the parent-child relationship to emotional well-being and social competence across the life span. Although attachment research focused initially on the observation of mother-child attachment relationships in early childhood, Bowlby (1982) maintained that attachment processes were central to personality functioning from "cradle to grave" (p. 172). Over the past decade, attachment researchers have increased their attention to articulating the distinct qualities of adult-child and adult-adult attachment and delineating the cognitive and affective processes underlying attachment across the life span (Crowell & Treboux, 1995).

One way in which attachment relationships are theorized to affect well-being across the life span is by providing a secure base of support. Through their availability as a source of support, secure attachments can reduce anxiety, increase environmental exploration, and contribute to competence in interacting with the world (Kobak & Sceery, 1988). Among young children, for example, the responsive and sensitive caretaker is believed to contribute to child feelings of security, confidence in exploring the environment, and the development of instrumental competence (Bowlby, 1988; Kobak & Sceery, 1988). For the late adolescent leaving home for college, Kenny (1987) suggested that secure parental attachments provide a secure base by supporting student exploration and mastery of the college environment and by remaining available as a source of advice and comfort when needed. Main (1999) proposed that proximity seeking or secure base behavior often increases in the later stages of the life span when older adults are less able to care for and protect themselves and experience heightened feelings of vulnerability.

Beyond the role as a source of actual assistance, parental attachments are also theorized to exert an enduring influence on development through the formation of internal working models. Sensitive and consistently available caretaking may contribute to an internal working model of self as worthy of love and a model of others as trustworthy and predictable. Conversely, insensitive and unreliable caretaking may result in a view of self as unworthy and a view of others as untrustworthy (Bowlby, 1982). These internal working models of self and others are believed to serve as cognitive filters through which current experiences are interpreted and ongoing expectations of self and others are formulated (Bowlby, 1982; Bretherton, 1985, 1992). Positive internal working models are theorized to enhance an individual's ability to adapt to stress over time, because the individual has confidence in the self and trust in reaching out to others for help. Conversely, and consistent with Beck's (1967) model of depression, a negative view of self and others, associated with insecure attachment, may increase vulnerability to depression (Carnelley, Pietromonaco, & Jaffe, 1994; Kenny, Moilanen, Lomax, & Brabeck, 1993; Kernis, Grannemann, & Mathis, 1991).

Characteristics of secure parental attachment have been associated empirically with indices of adaptive social and psychological functioning across a variety of developmental periods (Kenny & Barton, 2002). For the adolescent, secure parental attachments have been conceptualized as providing a source of security and support as the adolescent negotiates the numerous transitions and challenges of this developmental period. Among early and middle adolescents, secure parental attachments have been found to buffer life stress and to be associated with positive self-worth and low levels of depressive symptoms (Armsden, McCauley, Greenberg, Burke, & Mitchell, 1990; Kenny et al., 1993; Kobak, Sudler, & Gamble, 1991; Papini & Roggman, 1992). Among college students, secure parental attachments have been positively associated with college adjustment (Larose & Boivin, 1997; Rice, FitzGerald, Whaley, & Gibbs, 1995), assertiveness in social relationships (Kenny, 1987), enhanced resources for coping with stress (Brack, Gay, & Matheny, 1993), and career exploration and commitment (Blustein, Walbridge, Friedlander, & Palladino, 1991). …

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