Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships

By Ralph Erber; Robin Gilmour | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Continuities in the Development of Intimate Friendships: Object Relations, Interpersonal, and Attachment Perspectives

Ruth Sharabany University of Haifa

The goal of this chapter is to describe the place of intimacy within the context of life-span development (infancy, childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood). One is struck by the existence of three different, uncoordinated perspectives related to the life-span development of close relationships, particularly the development of' intimate friendships. One perspective is the developmental sequence of the significant people during one's life span: first parents; then friends of the same gender; and then friends of the opposite gender, spouses, and children. A second perspective is the developmental sequence of various functions and processes, such as attachment, friendship, and love. A third perspective is the different theories. Each theory has a different focus on a particular developmental phase and on a particular process. Theories of object relations, based on clinical work with adults, focused on early relations with a significant other in infancy. The attachment theory began with a focus on infancy. It is with this theory that the significance of early relationships with caregiver begins. Interpersonal relationship theories additionally emphasize the friendship phase. Social psychologists emphasize close relationships in adulthood and love. For example, one area of study is the components of love: intimacy, commitment, and passion.

Intimate friendship was considered a specific phase lasting from early childhood through early adolescence. However, it seems that an intimacy component is present in all significant close relationships from infancy through adulthood. Thus, the terms intimate friendship and intimacy are used here interchangeably. Within this context, there are several important transitions. There is the transition from infancy, in which attachment to the parents is the most prominent feature, into middle childhood, when intimate friendships are de-

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