Qualitative analysis concerning the effects of
attachment and separation
Attachment research in developmental psychology addresses how the experiences of early relationships in childhood and life events such as separations have an affect on adult relationships and our developmental path.
Qualitative analysis of an interview carried out to explore this further could provide a better insight into theories on attachment and development. However qualitative analysis has its limitations that can influence the assumptions made at the end of the analysis.
The thematic analysis of the current interview gives revealing insight into a middle aged couple’s life and also the possible effects their life experiences might have had on them to become the people they are today.
Developmental psychology distinguishes two important sources of interpersonal influence: our relationships with our peers (horizontal relationships) and our relationships with our parents (vertical relationships). Also one of the key ideas in lifespan psychology is that human development is the result of internal influences (e.g. individual psychological differences) and external influences (e.g. historical and cultural factors). This means that we are able to shape our personal development but this happens within a social and cultural context.
According to developmental psychologists adulthood is the product of childhood although it is important to stress that while development in childhood is significant, psychological development continues throughout our lives.
In this interview the focus seems to be on parental and environmental influences in the participants’ lives. According to lifespan psychologists development resembles to a transaction between the individual and their environment, each affecting the other and thus affecting development.
In attachment research there are two key ideas: one is that individuals have characteristic styles in relationships and these are reflected in their behaviours towards each other; and also that the origin of these styles are particularly in first relationships (e.g. infant-caregiver) therefore the way adults describe their childhood experiences with their parents is an important feature of their attachment style (Main, Kaplan, Cassidy, 1985, cited in Cooper and Roth, 2003).
The concept of internal working models is the central idea in attachment theory. Internal working models are a set of expectations of how oneself and another (e.g. infant-mother figure) will relate to each other. Human infants have a biological drive to achieve security through a particular relationship the mother figure (John Bowlby, 1940, cited in Cooper and Roth, 2003). The child expects the mother figure to be a source of comfort and security.
According to Bowlby the building up of internal working models, which happens in the infant’s mental world, is accomplished during childhood and affects later adult relationships. Bowlby saw this as essential to achieve healthy relationships in later life.
In contrast to this there is the earned secure’ attachment style where despite of a difficult childhood the adult moves on’ and achieves strong and positive relationships (e.g. marriage).
Many studies on attachment theory and attachment styles (Zimmerman et al. 2000; Hamilton 1994) showed conflicting results creating the assumption that there is support for the link between infant and adult attachment being of importance in development but that life events during an individuals life also will have an affect on adult attachment styles and development.
After the thematic analysis of the present interview we see examples from both Tony and Jo for how their experiences of attachment and separation might have affected them and their development into the people they are today, and also how this might relate to Bowlby’s attachment theory.