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Discuss research/theories investigating the influence of childhood on adult relationships

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Introduction

´╗┐Discuss research/theories investigating the influence of childhood on adult relationships Childhood provides us with many different experiences, each of which shapes how we interact with the world when we are older. Although everybody?s childhood is unique, psychologists have identified persistent themes in childhood experiences that predispose us towards particular types of relationship as adults. Shaver et al (1988) claimed that romantic love experienced in adulthood is an integration of three behavioural systems acquired in infancy. Attachment is the first system and this is related to Bowlby?s internal working model. According to Bowlby (1969), relationships experienced later on in life are a continuation of early attachment styles. To elaborate, a baby?s first attachment will be either secure or insecure, and this is a result of the behaviour of the infants? primary attachment figure who will create a positive or negative internal working model of relationships, which has an effect on future relationships, resulting in them either being good (secure) or bad (insecure). Not only this, the care giving system is learned by observing and then modelling the behaviour of the primary attachment figure, resulting in the way you care for others. This has been supported by Simpson et al (2007) who carried out a longitudinal study spanning more than 25 years. It involved 78 participants who were studied at four key points; infancy, early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. For infancy (one year) ...read more.

Middle

Qualter and Munn (2005) have shown that children also learn from their experiences with other children. To explicate, certain experiences a child has, affect how a child thinks about himself and others, which then becomes internalised. Nangle et al (2003) supports this claim and argues that children?s friendships are like training grounds for important adult relationships in later life. The experience of having a friend to confide in promotes feelings of trust, acceptance and a sense of being understood, these are ironically characteristics that are important in later romantic relationships. Nevertheless, there are still certain factors such as gender differences in childhood relationships that have been found in a number of studies. Supporting evidence for this comes from Richard and Schneider (2005) who found that girls have more intimate friendships than boys. They also found that girls are more likely to report care and security in their relationships with other girls. Further supporting evidence for gender differences come from Erwin (1993) who found that boys relationships tend to be more competitive, This is clearly shown in the choice of playground activity because it is observed that girls are more likely to engage in cooperative and sharing activities. This highlights significant gender differences in childhood relationships and by looking at the different activities it can be suggested that this will affect adult relationships, for example women act more affectionate and so will want more affection in relationships. ...read more.

Conclusion

As it is well known that the love for a partner is completely different then the love for a parent. This has been supported by Madsen (2001) who tested the effects of dating behaviour in adolescence (ages 15–17½) on the quality of young adult romantic relationships (ages 20–21). She found that when individuals did not date a lot in adolescence it resulted in a higher-quality young adult relationship, whereas when an adolescent dated a lot, it resulted in poorer quality young adult relationships. This suggests that the amount you date during adolescence can have advantages and disadvantages for adult relationship quality. This contradicts the claim that experiences in previous relationships; help strengthen future relationships due to learning from mistakes etc. Also Madsen’s finding have been challenged by Roisman et al (2004) who found no effect of romantic experiences at age 20 on romantic relationships at age 30. This suggests that adolescent romantic relationships may not affect adult relationships and so more research is needed for valid findings and conclusions to be made. However, the studies carried out are ethnocentric as many of the adolescent romantic relationship studies have used samples taken from one school or one city, usually in the US. This means that the findings do not represent the entire word and a more random and larger sample will need to be taken in future studies to avoid culture biased findings. If social factors determine adolescent experiences, then it is difficult to generalise findings from one highly specific culture to all cultures. ...read more.

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