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The Influence of Early Attachments on Later Relationships

In a way, a person’s behaviors and mode of thinking towards others, either romantic or otherwise, have something to do with the emotional and psychological relationship developed during his childhood with his parents or the people who raised him. Psychologist John Bowlby said, in his Attachment Theory, that attachment is the psychological connectedness among individuals, particularly between the infant and the caregiver which is, primarily, the mother1.

In his theory, Bowlby emphasizes four views: 1) very young children develop attachment to familiar caregivers who are sensitive and responsive; 2) young children explore the environment with familiar people as a secure base; 3) the attachment has continuous effect to the child’s personality development and social behaviors that will show later in his life and 4) any event that interferes with the attachment may have either a short or long-term negative impact in the life of the child.

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He further stresses that the child seeks the proximity or accessibility of the caregiver as a way of survival especially during troubled times. Apparently, a caregiver who is present always gives a sense of security to the child2. In her strange situation research in 1970, Psychologist Mary Ainsworth finds out that children vary in their attachment behaviors: while some toddlers can adapt and interact with anybody, other kids are either ambivalent or anxious with the presence of strangers and hesitant to explore their environment3.

The psychological and emotional tie developed at early age is significant as the child may utilize this as a guiding principle or prototype for his future relationship, especially intimate love and parenting. In some cases, an attached child becomes dependent to the caregiver and may suffer anxiety upon their separation. A recent finding states that some children who experienced attachment can develop an unusual deficiency called reactive attachment disorder (RAD) which is characterized by the child’s inappropriate ways in most social interactions4.