Alike, a study by Hazan and Shaver investigated the link between attachment styles and later adult relationships and provides support for the continuity hypothesis. They found that secure babies went on to find love easily and trust in a relationship. Insecure babies became adults who doubted love and feared the commitment. Lastly, ambivalent babies went on to be more jealous a possessive who were always worried about being abandoned.
However, attachment style can change. Zimmerman el al argued that when major life events occur such as a death or divorce, attachment can change from secure to insecure.
Similarly, also argued that when a disrupted childhood is followed by a strong relationship an insecure attachment can develop into secure.
Early relationships with peers can also influence later adult relationships. Close friendships in childhood are often categorised by affection, a sense of alliance & intimacy, and the sharing of personal information. The experience of having friends to confide in promotes feelings of trust, acceptance and a sense of being understood; characteristics that are also important in later adult relationships.
In later childhood, particularly adolescence, attachment usually shifts from parents to peers. With this shift, adolescents can redirect interpersonal energy towards romantic partners. These early romantic relationships allow adolescents to gain experience with a new kind of emotional & physical intimacy.
However, Madsen found that adolescents with heavy dating frequency generally had poorer quality young adult relationships, showing that too much dating in adolescents can be maladaptive.
Although dating in adolescence can improve the quality of adult relationships, romantic experience in early to middle adolescence has been associated with negative outcomes in later adult relationships. This suggests that the timing of romantic relationships in adolescence determines what influence, if any, they will have.
A methodological problem with many studies of adolescent romantic relationships is that they often involve highly selective samples of adolescents from one school or city, usually in the US. This means that the studies do not adequately represent the experience of adolescents in other areas or cultures. These studies lack external validity, making it difficult to generalise the findings to people outside of the sample of participants.
Overall, these theories are reductionistic. This is because it assumes that early attachment is the only factor that influence security in adult relationships. But other factors may come into play that can change someone’s attachment type making them more or less secure in adulthood.
It is also deterministic because it ignores free will and says that if you want to have secure relationships at adulthood you must have been a secure attachment in early childhood. But we know that attachment types can change and doesn’t just go through the way the theory suggests it does.
Also the majority of research is conducted in western cultures. Many children in non-western cultures do not have secure attachments but this doesn’t mean that they grow up to have poor relationships.
However, research is often longitudinal which increases reliability of the findings.
In conclusion, although this theory provides useful information on how attachment types and peer influence can affect later adult relationships it fails to consider many factors which would also contribute to the attachment style for adulthood. Therefore, we cannot solely use these explanations to explain the influence of childhood on adult relationships.