Parent-Child Relations throughout Life

By Karl Pillemer; Kathleen McCartney | Go to book overview

childhood attachment. Such attachment acts as a motivation for adult children's protective caregiving behaviors toward their aging parents.

However, much additional research needs to be carried out before the nature of attachment in adulthood is understood. Preliminary to any such research, further effort must be directed to the development and validation of suitable instruments to measure adult attachment, particularly easily administered paper-and-pencil measures.

The sequelae of secure and insecure attachment should be investigated in adult life, particularly in relation to feelings of affectional closeness, attachment behaviors, and degree and type of caregiving activities in old age. (It may be that when adult children do not provide adequate help to aging parents or even subject them to abuse, this behavior may be related to insecure attachment.) Gender differences in this connection are particularly worthy of study. Also, the nature and characteristics of symbolic attachment need to be explored.

Further studies should be carried out comparing equity, obligation, and attachment as motivations for parent caring, and determining how these motivations are related to the quality, quantity, level, and duration of caregiving as well as to situational factors and current social forces.

Finally, further research needs to be carried out on the entire sibling system of adult children in a family: What is the nature of their attachment to their parents and to each other? How are attachment behaviors and protective behaviors manifested in the system as a whole? If some children are more strongly attached to a parent than are others, what accounts for this? Do differences in attachment account for the frequently observed emergence of an adult daughter as a principal caregiver to an aging parent?

Only through a concerted research effort in the future can we hope to fully understand the life-span persistence of human bonding.


REFERENCES

Adams, B. ( 1968). Kinship in an urban setting. Chicago: Markham.

Ainsworth, M. D. S. ( 1979). "Attachment as related to mother-infant interaction." Advances in the Study of Behavior, 9, 2-52.

Ainsworth, M. D. S. ( 1985). "Attachments across the life span." Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 61, 792-812.

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

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. ( 1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bank, S., & Kahn, M. D. ( 1982). The sibling bond. New York: Basic Books.

Baruch, G., & Barnett, R. C. ( 1983). "Adult daughters' relationships with their mothers." Journal of Marriage and the Family, 45, 601-606.

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