Humans are social beings and need to be with others and form relationships but our relationship behaviors do not "come naturally" and they need to be learned similar to other social skills (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005, p.77). Many psychologists argue that the kind of relationships infants have with their primary caregivers is the blueprint for the later life relationships (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Behaviors in adult relationships' are influenced by the kinds of relationships and attachments they have experienced in their early years with their primary caregivers. This is the basic perspective of the theory of attachment styles that claims that the kind of bonds we form early in life influence the kinds of relationships we form as adults (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2011). After observing interactions of infants with their mothers the developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues (1978) identified three patterns of attachments that include the secure attachment style, anxious/ambivalent attachment style and avoidance attachment style (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). Depending on the specific attachment style one was exposed to and learned as an infant will demonstrate specific adult attachment styles which involve the secure, preoccupied, fearful and dismissing adult attachment styles (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005, p.85). Therefore one can see that the interactions we first have with our primary caregivers could shape our relationships as adults. Additionally no one can doubt that children are first shaped inside their families and no one can underestimate the importance of the parents' role on a child's development and how it can affect their future development. This brings to mind the theory of parenting styles I learned in a previous psychology class. Diana Baumrind developed a theory of four distinct parenting styles which reflect the two dimensions of parenting which are responsiveness and demandingness (Arnett, 2010). Responsiveness reflects the degree to which parents are supportive and sensitive to the child's needs and reflects the amount of love, warmth and affection expressed to their children (Arnett, 2010). Demandingness reflects the degree to which parents are demanding, have rules and high expectations for their children and it reflects the amount of controlling and monitoring parents have towards their children (Arnett, 2010). Based on these two dimensions the four types of parenting styles are authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and neglectful or disengaged. Parenting style has been found to greatly influence and affect adolescent development and also could probably affect the relationships with others in a similar fashion that attachment style may.
From personal experience and from people I know I believe that attachment theory, and the above mentioned model, could accurately be applied to explain relationship patterns. Personally as a child I developed a secure attachment with my parents as they were responsive to my needs and caring, they were there when I needed them and they provided me with reassurance to explore my environment. As an adult I have been able to develop lasting relationships and I am comfortable with closeness, trusting others, and interdependence. When considering others from my close environment I also can relate their relationship patterns with the attachment theory and this appears helpful to better understand them. For instance a close friend of mine and previous colleague seems she has developed a preoccupied attachment style and this could explain her pattern of relationships thus far in her life. She has an anxious/ambivalent attachment style with her parents as a result of their job obligations, and their personalities were inconsistent regarding their affection towards her. As an adult she developed a preoccupied attachment style and she exhibits this attachment style towards both her friendships and intimate relationships. Particularly when it comes to her intimate relationships this type of attachment style is possibly responsible for her two divorces within a five year time frame and her being less satisfied with her romantic relationships. Whenever she entered into a romantic relationship she acted obsessive and was very preoccupied with her relationship. Most of her relationships were short-lived and even when she ended up getting married her first marriage lasted only one year and her second just a little longer. The main reason for this, based on what I learned from the attachment theory, seems to be the fact that she entered her relationships quite fast without first really knowing her partner and by being obsessive, anxious, jealous over her relationship it probably discouraged her intimate others and scared them away. Fortunately people are able to change and as one learns one's attachment style they could possibly unlearn it over time (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). However in order to do so one needs to become aware of their relationship pattern and then decide what actually needs to be accomplished in order succeed this (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005).
The next two parenting styles are the permissive and the neglectful, or disengage style. Permissive parents are not demanding, they hardly ever punish their children and do not have a lot of control of their children as they usually let them do whatever they want (Arnett, 2010). They seem to want to be more like their children's friends instead of their parents. Children growing up in a permissive family will be more likely to have higher self esteem, but they will have poor emotional regulation, are immature and irresponsible (Arnett, 2010). They may show some developed social skills but actually do not posses them as they have been used to always getting what they want. The inadequate emotional regulation appears to be a problem for friendship formation (Berger, 2005). The disengaged or neglectful parenting style is characterized by parents who do not care about their children. These parents are low in both demandingness and responsiveness and they may seem little emotionally attached with their children (Arnett, 2010). Children growing up with this parenting style are exposed to an indifferent environment, without any guidance or support and are most likely to be depressed, impulsive and have poor social skills (Arnett, 2010). In general this type of parenting is associated with negative outcomes in a child's development in all domains of their life.
These descriptions of the various parenting styles are fairly general and brief. There are also parents between styles or one parent may be of one style and the other of another style. However one can see that each child's development is affected by the parenting style of their parents and this could also affect their relationships with others as well. The parenting style a parent follows is influenced by various reasons such as personality type, psychological states, a child's behavior, education, socioeconomic status and much more (Arnett, 2010). Comparing the different attachment styles discussed previously with the different parenting styles I believe that it is possible for both to affect people's patterns of relationships as both could shape the development of a child. Considering the importance and significance of situational and social influences one can see that the initial social context of children is their families and their family environment is able to shape their development and influence the development of their personal and social relationships.
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