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Effects Of Attachment Theory On Children's Relationship Development

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The idea of Attachment Theory is that ​as an infant we form these attachments with our caregivers that will later affect how the child behaviorally and emotionally develops into adulthood. These attachments the child makes with their caregiver from the very beginning can affect their relationships in the future; this concept lately has become a big debate on whether or not these attachments you form as an infant really do determine the kind of relationships you’ll have in the future. There are four styles of attachment; secure attachment where the child is distressed when their caregiver leaves but is able to compose themselves and is willing to explore, avoidant attachment where they are unattached to their caregiver and will explore without going back to the caregiver to check with them, ambivalent attachment when the child is insecurely attached to their caregiver and becomes upset when the caregiver leaves as well as angry when they return, and lastly disorganized-disoriented when the child is insecurely attached and is sometimes abused or neglected by their caregiver, the child seems fearful, dazed, and depressed. Some psychologists also believe attachment happens in stages and that there is a critical period for developing an attachment which is about zero to five years. They believe that if an attachment has not developed during this period, the child will suffer from developmental consequences that are irreversible like reduced intelligence and increased aggression. While others believe that the attachment you make as an infant has no way of predicting the kinds of relationships you have in future years as attachments change as well as your environment and situations therefore if you develop one as a baby or not has no effect on your future.

A research study was conducted by Davies, P. T., Thompson, M. J., Coe, J. L., Sturge-Apple, M. L., & Martin, M. J. on “Child Response Processes as Mediators of the Association Between Caregiver Intimate Relationship Instability and Children’s Externalizing Symptoms”. The hypothesis of their study was whether the amount of intimate relationships the parents engaged with their children during the preschool period would increase risk for externalizing problems, as well as unpredictability in family relationships increases externalizing symptoms. In this research study they used a case study and a survey to conduct their study, which resulted in the amount/degree of intimate relationship with the child being the independent variable and how unstable during the preschool period the child is being the dependent variable. (Davies, P. T.​et al. ​1244–1258)

In addition for this particular research study there were 243 mothers and children participants who were living in a moderate-sized metropolitan area in the Northeastern part of the United States and were recruited through a variety of agencies. Also according to the research study the demographic characteristics of the participants are as followed, “56% of the sample consisting of girls. Median household income of the families was $36,000 per year (range = $2,000–$121,000), with most families (69%) receiving public assistance. Approximately 19% of the parents did not earn a high school diploma or GED, with the median education for the sample consisting of a GED or high school diploma. Almost half of the families were Black or African American (48%), followed by smaller percentages of families who identified as White (43%), multiracial (6%), or another race (3%). Approximately 16% of the family members were Latino. At Wave 1, 99% of the mothers and 74% of their partners were biological parents. Approximately half of the adults (47%) were married.” (Davies, P. T.​et al. ​1244–1258) Furthermore the major findings from the research study concluded that the findings revealed that “early exposure to caregiver intimate relationship instability predicted children’s endorsement of a domineering, coercive style of responding to peer challenges over a 1-year period. Changes in a dominant interpersonal style, in turn, were associated with rises or less marked declines in externalizing symptoms over a 2-year span.These results support the hypothesis that unpredictability in family relationships increases externalizing symptoms by sustaining children’s tendencies to endorse toughness as a way of regulating their social standing and access to resources.” (Davies, P. T.​et al. ​1244–1258). In addition the researchers also state that in future research to this general topic the study could be improved by expanding mediational tests of relationship instability to include other mechanisms, integration of multiple levels of analysis approaches and selecting mediating mechanisms that more precisely test the comparative explanatory power of these theories in models of relationship instability. Also there was a confounding variable present in their study was that the measurement battery does not capture all possible explanatory processes.

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In the case study done by Davies, P. T., Thompson, M. J., Coe, J. L., Sturge-Apple, M. L., & Martin, M. J. on “Child Response Processes as Mediators of the Association Between Caregiver Intimate Relationship Instability and Children’s Externalizing Symptoms” I feel as though it is a credible source because all of the authors are part of the Department of Clinical and

Social Sciences in Psychology for the University of Rochester, except for Martin Meredith who is part of the Department of Educational Psychology for the University of Nebraska. Another reason why I believe this source to be credible is because it was published by the US : American Psychological Association and the study was ​Submitted: ​May 22, 2018​ Revised: ​January 12, 2019​ Accepted: ​January 25, 2019, meaning it has been recently revised as well as it is a sixth issue indicating that the work has become a standard source in the area and is reliable. In addition this source audience was intended for other psychologists, health professionals, and teachers in that field making the language a little too technical but they did a good job or explaining everything so if someone from the public were to read the study they would be able to understand what was going on. Coupled with the other reasons above this source is credible because they use all their data to back up their opinions and to support their claims to show they are fact based and not just opinions. Lastly​ their findings were accurate and supported the hypothesis in the end regardless of the confounding variables that were involved as mentioned earlier in the paper. In the end I believe this article to be credible due to it being written based offof all the data from the conducted study holding their opinions and facts true, its many pair of eyes overseeing the study, as well as the authors positions of Department of Clinical and Social

Sciences in Psychology and Martin Meredith position as the Department of Educational Psychology. The second source provided by ​Lauren Vinopal​ titled ​Attachment Theory Is All Wrong. Here’s What the Science Really Says,​ I believe is not a credible source for a few reasons. Lauren Vinopal is not a professor nor does she have a degree in psychology, she wrote this paper with the help and information from psychologist Dr. Jerome Kagan, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University which is how she got all her facts. In addition this article was published July 08 2019, which does make the psychologist and information relevant and up to date with all the new findings thus far but she only used one psychologist opinion and insight on the topic. Also the article was not published by an association the website itself is created to help dads become better parents; they even say in the “about us” section “Fatherly offers original reporting, expert parenting advice, and hard-won insights into a challenging, but profoundly rewarding stage of life.” Coupled with all of that the author’s intended audience is fathers therefore made the language the text more simplified and well explained so the fathers could benefit from psychologist Dr. Jerome Kagan insight. Except in this article it is mainly filled with an opinion already preset which was then just backed up with facts from a credible source. Which shows this article was already written with a bias and the opposing view was not even looked into by the author as she made sure all her information would support her bold title/claim stating that Attachment Theory is all wrong. In the end I believe this article to not be credible due to its already pre bias when writing and researching the claim, its lack of insight from more than just one psychologist, as well as its authors lack of a psychology or social science background.

Overall if I were to do a scientific study on the effects of parental relationship with their child and the effects it has on children with mentally my hypothesis would be, the less attention and affection shown to the child will result in a child feeling isolated, alone, as well as depressed. With all of this factored together it will lead to the child internalizing their problems and having trust issues with adults as well as their peers.My variables in my study would have an independent variable being the emotional state of the children who are given different degrees of affection and attention and my dependent variable would be the children. To begin in my study I would begin with picking children at random from the age range of three to five who have been with their parents since birth (so no children who are adopted) . Then over the course of time for three years I would have random people with no medical, psychology background, or who knows the families to go to the houses and survey the children separate from their parents to prevent the children feeling pressured to say certain things to please their parents. I would also ask the parents to allow cameras to be set up so I can see exactly how each child is being given affection and attention so it can eliminate the parents giving answers to make themselves look better. In the end I feel as though my hypothesis would be supported if there isn’t enough affection and attention given to a child their mental health will suffer due to the fact that they are not receiving the love and support from the beginning as young children so as they develop they do not know that feeling yet they see it being given to other children which would lead to the child feeling isolated, alone, as well as depressed.

Work Cited

  1. Davies, P. T., Thompson, M. J., Coe, J. L., Sturge-Apple, M. L., & Martin, M. J. (2019). Child response processes as mediators of the association between caregiver intimate relationship instability and children’s externalizing symptoms. ​Developmental Psychology​, ​55​(6), 1244–1258. doi: 10.1037/dev0000717
  2. Vinopal, L. (2019, July 10). Attachment Theory Is All Wrong. Retrieved November 8, 2019, from​.

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Effects Of Attachment Theory On Children’s Relationship Development. (2021, September 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from
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