Intersections with Attachment

By Jacob L. Gewirtz; William M. Kurtines | Go to book overview

10 Attachment and Close Relationships: A Life-Span Perspective

Mary J. Levitt


ABSTRACT

Intersections of infant attachment theory with models of close relationships and social support in adulthood are proposed within the framework of the social convoy model elaborated by Kahn and Antonucci ( 1980). Close relationships across the life span are viewed as continuations of early attachment relations, governed by similar processes and serving similar functions. The primary process is hypothesized to be the establishment and maintenance of relationship expectations, forged through familiarity with relationship partners and mutually contingent feedback, and influenced by cultural norms and past relationship experiences. Relationships are thought to be stabilized and given continuity through mutual adaptation to partner expectations, modulation of conflict, and maintenance of behavior within the limits of partner tolerance. Developmental changes in existing relationships and structural changes over the life course in the individual's circle of close relationships are thought to ensue from changes in cognitive ability, individual maturation, and age-related social norms. Changes in the ability to modulate conflict may also play a role in the evolution of relationships. Consistent with an attachment model, personal well-being is hypothesized to be related primarily to close relationships rather than to support networks as a whole, and data are cited to suggest that one such relationship may be sufficient.

For the past several years, researchers have been documenting the importance of social relationships to personal well-being. This research has cut across disciplinary lines and has been focused on populations differing markedly in age, culture, and life circumstances. It includes the work of developmental researchers on infant attachment, a large and growing number of empirical findings on social network relations and social support, and the newer but no less significant work

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