Attachment and the Development of Behavior Problems
John E. Bates Kathryn Bayles Indiana University
Some children do well in their social relationships; they enjoy others and are enjoyed, and they develop a wide range of adaptive skills. However, as many as 15% of children do not develop as well; they show problem behaviors and signs of internal and interpersonal disturbance. It is not apparent how these major variations in children's adaptations come about, even when we have the benefit of hindsight. How do some children attain a wealth of socially valued roles, whereas others are comparatively poverty- stricken, and still others attain notoriety, with a wealth of negative roles? Our major goal is greater understanding of how children's behavior problems develop. Attachment concepts are increasingly relevant to this goal, and we use them as one way of examining the paths individual children follow toward differing social adaptations.
There has been an impressive accumulation of research in the past 15 years on attachment security; the literature has been suggesting it as a major factor in children's social competence and emotional adjustment outcomes (e.g., Belsky & Isabella, this volume; Lamb, Thompson, Gardner, & Charnov, 1985; Sroufe, 1983). The attachment literature leads toward a rich model of how personality develops, registering impressive gains in empirical support for the claim that there are coherent patterns of psychosocial development. The data generally support the argument that early characteristics of the child in a basic relationship, especially the infant-mother one, predict socially meaningful characteristics at later times, even ones observed in relationships with peers and teachers. How it may be that attachment security research has been able to predict developmental outcomes is discussed later. We also discuss recent attachment