Attachment issues affect many areas of adults’ lives. People who have insecure attachment may be worried that they will be abandoned, hurt, or betrayed by those close to them. Individuals with secure attachments, on the other hand, may feel a strong sense of allegiance to and from those in their lives and function within that security. People with insecure attachments may have difficulty making and keeping adaptive relationships and may struggle with anxiety when faced with relationship challenges. Therefore, understanding attachment evolution is critical to helping those with attachment problems. Attachment bonds develop early in life and are nurtured throughout adolescence. Although there is much evidence demonstrating the effects of parental support and warmth on attachment, less is known about how this type of interaction in infancy affects adolescent attachment.
Marielle D. Beijersbergen, of the Centre for Child and Family Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, sought to explore this effect in a recent study. She evaluated 125 adopted children and their mothers when the children were 12 months old using the Strange Situation Procedure. The children were not assessed again until they were 14. At that time, the participants completed the Adult Attachment Interview. Beijersbergen found that in adolescence, secure children received more sensitive support from their mothers than insecure teens. The teens who received this adaptive type of support at 12 months had a continuity of secure attachment, whereas those who did not receive maternal support at 12 months were able to develop secure attachment if their mothers became more supportive over time.
This study did not examine attachment or support at any intervals between 1 and 14 years, thus limiting the continuity of the findings. But because it involved adopted children and not biological children, the results eliminate any direct effect of genetic disposition or temperament in the sample studied. “Across childhood and adolescence, attachment processes remain interwoven with the quality of parental sensitive support,” Beijersbergen said. Beijersbergen believes that the development of attachment bonds is based on the sensitivity of support from the mother in particular, and this contributes to the overall well-being of the child in adolescence and beyond.
Beijersbergen, Marielle D., Femmie Juffer, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, and Marinus H. Van IJzendoorn. Remaining or becoming secure: Parental sensitive support predicts attachment continuity from infancy to adolescence in a longitudinal adoption study. Developmental Psychology 48.5 (2012): 1277-282. Print.
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