Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships

By Ralph Erber ; Robin Gilmour | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
A Developmental Model of the Relations Between Mother-Child Attachment and Friendship

Kathryn A. Kerns Kent State University

As individuals progress through life, they meet new people, have new experiences, and forge new relationships. Yet, they are not starting afresh in every new situation or relationship; rather, they bring their organization of cognitions, feelings, and behavior with them. That is, people have personalities. Personality theorists (e.g., Block, 1977) have been interested in identifying the coherence in an individual's development. The notion of coherence is that an individual's behavior is predictable across time and situations. There is more continuity in an individual's behavior across situations ( Epstein, 1981) than was once suspected ( Mischel, 1968). Recent longitudinal work ( Caspi, Elder, & Bem, 1987, 1988; Huesman, Eron, Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1984) has suggested that there is a great deal of coherence in personality from childhood to adulthood.

Researchers interested in studying personal relationships have begun to ask similar questions. They have examined whether there is coherence over time in the qualities of an individual's relationships. They also have addressed the question of whether there is a detectable coherence across an individual's many relationships. The latter involves identifying key dimensions of different personal relationships (e.g., parent-child, peer) and examining how the different relationships relate to one another.

Personality refers to an individual's characteristic pattern of behavior ( Wiggins, 1973). By contrast, relationship is a dyadic construct that refers to the affect, cognition, and behavior of two people ( Hinde, 1979; Park & Waters, 1988). According to Hinde, two individuals are said to have a relationship if they have had a series of interactions occurring over a period of time. Because relation-

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