Parental Childhood Influences on Adult Relationships

It seems that there is a strong connection between the way people were brought up in their early years and the way they treat their relationships. Many adults recalled that the quality of their interactions with, and attachment to, their parents as children was similar in many respects to the ways in which they responded to their partners their current unions.

In the 1980s, Hazan & Shaver found parallels between adult relationship styles and early parenting and infancy attachment styles. The researchers found three main adult attachment styles:
Type l. Secure This person was close to their parent and displays an ease in entering into relationships, getting close to others, and trusting their partner. The mutual dependency feels right. There are lots of self-disclosures (53 per cent of the population). These adults tended to feel comfortable with new relationships and in expressing their feelings regularly.

Type 2. Anxious-Ambivalent This person was treated in an ambivalent way by his/her parents, with sporadic attachment that breds insecurity. He/she tends to be preoccupied with love, and loves the attention and closeness, but is racked with jealousy and has expectations of rejection. They are likely to have a volatile relationship with their partner, often scaring them away because of too much jealousy and anxiety. They often expect the worst to happen and behave to match. Of course, it usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy (26 per cent).

Type 3. Avoidant This individual is likely to have been brought up in a detached way from birth by the parents. He/she finds it difficult to get close to others and feels uncomfortable with close proximity or commitment. This leads to a lack of intimacy, suspicion and frequent isolation (20 per cent).Further research has supported these findings.

The implications of different types teaming up with each other are not difficult to see. A Type 1 linking up with a Type 3 would eventually be a nightmare. The detached person would not welcome the constant openness (my ex) while the expressive person would resent the introspection and secrecy (me!)

All relationships contain three common factors:
a. mutual understanding
b. giving and receiving support
c. valuing time spent with a loved one.

Securely attached adults are more able to provide those key elements than their more anxious peers. They tend to be more committed, more satisfied and have a longer duration in their relationships. Anxious-Ambivalent adults, who were deprived of parental attention or rejected as children in some form, have more swings (highs & lows) in their unions and experience greater stress when in conflict with their partners. Avoidants tend to prefer casual sex, which requires little psychological intimacy or commitment, or no sex at all, while both Avoidant and Anxious-Ambivalent adults do not seek out similar adults as partners. They tend to go for either much younger or much older lovers.