The family studies conducted by numerous scholars all over the world point out on the fact that the wellbeing of many of the individuals in their adult life is often a direct reflection of the attachment they had in their childhood. According to Kasser and Ahuvia (2002), the proponents of success or failure observed in a particular individual during his or her adulthood can be directly correlated to some aspects of behavior dating back to his or her childhood. It has been observed that the majority of adults tend to carry forward some behaviors that they inherently and unknowingly attached to their earlier years.
Merz and Consedine (2009) concur with these profound thoughts of Kasser and Ahuvia (2002) and they contribute to these notions by stating that this phenomenon spans to the family ties and support structures in the later adult life. The question then remains unanswered: what are these ties and attachments in the childhood and how come they have so much connection and influence on the person’s adult life?
Purpose of this study
This study aims to answer the question raised above in the introduction by taking an examination of a number of scenarios in adult life that could be linked to the attachment they had as children. The paper will concentrate on three points of focus: the adult life and the sense of fulfillment, the romantic and the social relationships of secure/ambivalent/avoidant attachment that the individual has.
The Structure of Development in Early Childhood
Hastings et al (2007), Merz and Consedine (2009) and Huntsinger & Luecken (2004) all share the same notion and opinion on this topic of early attachment and the influence in latter adult life. They agree that there is indeed such kind of a relationship and the impact it has on the adult life of the individuals is real. Banse and Kowalick (2007) believe that the influence is based on whether the attachment was of an intrinsic nature or extrinsic.
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Bowlby’s attachment theory was developed by a Briton psychiatrist John Bowlby to show the effects of the attachment of early childhood on the adult life. Bowlby’s attachment theory as stipulated by the author (1992) describes this attachment as the lifelong connectedness among human beings in a psychological way. The experiences that one had as a child have a profound effect on the adult life of that person.
The Bowlby’s attachment theory outlines two different levels and kinds of attachment adults have with a bearing to their childhood. These attachments are discussed below.
Another psychologist, Mary Ainsworth expounded much on the John Bowlby’s attachment theory by initiating three different levels and styles of attachments experienced by adults. These are secure attachment, avoidant-insecure attachment and ambivalent-insecure attachment.
A secure attachment is one that results from the over reliance on the caregiver, parent or guardian as a child. The adults who were securely attached as children showed signs of discomfort and discontent whenever their caretakers or parents were not close by. They exhibited a feeling of security by having their caretakers close to them as they were largely dependent on them for provision of varied supplies. The securely attached children always sought care, comfort and security from their caregivers whenever a situation frightened them. They felt free to reach out to their parents or caregivers as they were assured of help and comfort in their time of need.
The adults who have an ambivalently insecure attachment in their childhood must have exhibited extreme distresses whenever their caregivers were out of their sight. This leads to the child not having enough confidence in the availability of the parent or caretaker in times of dire need. The ambivalent-insecure attachment is brought forth by poor maternal availability. The parents were not available most of the times to address the insecurity and fears of the children.
The avoidant-insecure attachment is the most extreme case scenario. The adults who experience this attachment to childhood had a tendency of trying to completely avoid or ignore their parents or caretakers altogether. They did not want to be associated with their parents or their caregivers.
The Effects of the Attachment on Adult Life
The attachments as described by Bowlby (1992) have some adverse effects on the relationships of persons related to them. The spheres of lives that could be affected include the sense of fulfillment in the community, the romantic and social relationships that these secure/ambivalent/avoidant individuals have and maybe even the way they perceive themselves, which is their social esteem. Some of the effects and causes are outlined in the ensuing discourse.
The lack of confidence
The lack of confidence could easily pass as one of the most common adverse and most wide-spread effect of the early attachment in childhood. If an adult is found to be lacking confidence, chances are that this vice has trickled down from the childhood years. More often than not, using investigative approach and digging into the past of such an adult, the bet could fall on that the adult had struggled with confidence issues as a child (Ben-ami and Baker, 2012). Confidence issues in the period of being a kid could have resulted from a very diverse ways and angles. Some of the possible avenues of this lack of confidence are discussed below.
There is a possibility of the adult have experienced a situation of limited financial resources in his childhood. This financial lack could have made him or her have defunct relationships with other children from richer families. The development of inferiority complex as a child could be tricked down to affect the person when he grows up (Schore, 2001).
Growing up in an abusive family set up could also undermine the confidence of the child greatly. The prospects of encountering more abuse and violence in the adult life would only make the adult lose their confidence (Guering et al, 2011).
Lack of support from family members
The family plays a very huge role in the development of the confidence of the child during the young formative years. If the family is not supportive, then there is a high probability that the child will grow to become very insecure and unsure of himself or herself (Consedine and Fiori, 2009). This is synonymous to the loss of confidence on the part of the adult affected by the limited or no support as a child.
Poor communication skills
Some words and phrases used by the person of interest as a child could somehow have found their way into the normal everyday conversation and speech of the child in later years. These words and phrases could be having undergone an entropy process and have been rendered completely unusable in the current adult life of the person. Continued usage of such phrases and words as the effect of the attachments as a child is rubbed into the adult life will only result into the lack of understanding among his or her colleagues.
Some adults still exhibit the behaviors that they had as children. Hastings et al (2007) notes that some of them even behave in the negative way unconsciously, without the knowledge that they may be doing something that is considered to be indecent by the ethical codes of the society. Some of them just cannot help it. They have become too much ingrained and attached to the behaviors that they do not see anything wrong with them despite the obvious discomfort they bring onto other people. An example of such a behavior is farting in public.
Positive Effects of the Attachments
Like two sides to a coin, the attachment in early childhood could also shape the life of the adult in a positive manner. Some of the positive attachments capable of bearing positive results are noted below.
Fairly comfortable financial well-being of the family
An adult who grew up in a family which was well up financially does not have much confidence issues. This is because the adult does not bear the inferiority complex that makes people lose confidence in themselves. Even though this particular aspect could go either way: where too much attachment to wealth of family could make the adult culminate into a snob, the positive side of confidence build up is an ideal aftermath of this early attachment
Supportive and peaceful family
Growing up in a family set up that advocated and incorporated the values of peace and love often breeds a child, who is confident, secure and assured of himself (Steger et al 2012). These values will keep on developing in this child and will be upheld even when the child becomes an adult.
From the brief discussion and the illumination of this topic, it can be observed that most of the times, the people we become as adults are somehow, in one way or another, chiseled by the different attachments we had in our earlier years. It has also been observed that some of these fields of attachments are not the areas that we had the capacity to control as children.
Depending on the kind of attachment one had as a child that trickles into his or her adult life, the behavior of the adult is defined. Early attachments have a huge impact on the way we develop into adulthood and in some way, they have the power to define our character and even our disposition to numerous affairs affecting us as human beings in our daily endeavors. Thus stated, it becomes the responsibilities of the parents in ensuring that their children grow to become model citizens. This is done during the very early stages of the child’s life through inculcating into their child the values that the parents desire to see their offspring possess in their adulthood.