Attachment: Understanding You In Your Relationship

John Bowlby conceptualized attachment theory as the quality of the emotional bond between the primary caregiver and child. According to Bowlby, the quality of this affectional bond during early childhood sets the stage for the quality of romantic relationships during adulthood. Therefore, infants who experienced secure and harmonious interactions with their mothers would mature into adults with healthy and satisfying romantic relationships.

Mary Ainsworth extended Bowlby’s theory of attachment, and described three major styles of attachment. These are:

  • Secure Attachment- Parent responds consistently and appropriately to child’s needs. The child uses parent as a “home base” from which to explore the environment, and checks back in with parent for comfort before further exploration.
  • Anxious-Ambivalent (Insecure) Attachment– Parent inconsistently meets child’s needs. The child is unable to use caregiver as a secure base. These children are usually distressed upon separation with indifference, anger, reluctance to warm to caregiver. The child is typically preoccupied with caregiver’s availability, seeking contact, yet resisting when it is achieved.
  • Anxious- Avoidant (Insecure) Attachment– Parent conveys little to no response to a distressed child. There is minimal affective interaction between parent and child, or the child does not convey distress when apart from parent and tries to avoid physical contact with parent.

Unfortunately, many people were not able to have the ideal, secure attachment, but experienced degrees of insecure attachment. Given that these early emotional experiences directly impact later adult relationships, characteristics from each of these early attachment styles can be found in our current relational styles.

  • Secure Attachment-These adults are comfortable being emotionally connected to their partner, and are comfortable spending time away from their partner to spend time with others and pursue their own interests.
  • Anxious-Ambivalent (Insecure) Attachment– As adults, they often look to their partner for approval and assurance, often becoming overly dependent; however, they can often be less trusting, have less positive views about themselves and their partners, and may exhibit high levels of  impulsivity in their relationships.
  • Anxious- Avoidant (Insecure) Attachment– These adults require a large degree of independence, often appearing aloof or afraid of commitment.  They tend to disconnect from their feelings, dealing with rejection by distancing themselves from partners.

So, can you see parts of yourself in one of these attachment styles? The good news is that you can work to improve your current relational functioning. You will need to work toward feeling secure as you emotionally connect with your partner, but also feel secure being on your own and away from your partner.

I would love to help you find this balance in your relationship. You can find me at www.goodlifepsychotherapy.com.

What Parents Should Know About Risky Teen Behaviors

Last week, I talked about the spike in conflict that typically occurs between parents and teens. This increased conflict is a characteristic of the Storm and Stress of adolescence. You can read that post here.

Another hallmark characteristic of teenage Storm and Stress includes participating in risky behaviors. According to US News, there are several risky behaviors teens are engaging in, and parents should be on the lookout for.

  • Abusing ADHD drugs such as Adderal
  • Abusing the pain relief drug OxyContin
  • Alcohol and illicit drug use
  • Riding in a car with intoxicated driver

Parents can curb these through open communication, monitoring, and supervising their teenager’s activities. Monitoring equates to “keeping tabs.” How do you monitor? By asking these kinds of questions:

  • Who are you hanging out with/ meeting up with later?
  • Where are you going?

On the other hand, supervision is the direct observation of your teen. Some ideas to create supervised activities include:

  • Setting up a game room or TV room for your teen to invite friends over
  • Create a profile on Facebook so you can observe online interactions

Teenagers are susceptible to thinking they are invincible. As a parent, you need to set rules and limits to protect your teen’s health and well-being.

Managing Conflict With Your Teen

I want you to take a moment to recall your teenage years. Were they generally positive? Negative? Somewhere in between?

One view of adolescence, originally coined by G. Stanley Hall, is Storm and Stress. According to the theory, adolescence is characterized by:

  • Increased mood disruptions
  • Increased involvement in risky behavior
  • Increased conflict with parents

Although these components of storm and stress do not generalize to all teenagers, most parents may recognize degrees of each in their teenagers.

One reason that parents experience more conflict with their teens during this period is due to an adolescent’s growing need for independence, and parents pacing the amount of appropriate autonomy.

What do you and your teen argue about? Curfew? Clothes? Where and who they spend their time with?

The common denominator here is independence. Conflict emerges when adolescents want more autonomy than age-appropriate, and you as a parent must set limits.

Parents need to set limits, but allow teenagers autonomy within these limits. Allowing a teen to practice independent decision-making within a set of rules or guidelines will keep them on track to becoming a mature, self-reliant adult.

The Case for Only Children

In the past, only children have received a bad wrap, and are usually an anomaly to the 2.3 children-per-household convention. In the midst of the recession, a new emerging trend suggests that only children are on the rise, and the benefits of having an only are outweighing the drawbacks. Given the recent change in trends, it’s time to debunk some of the myths regarding only children.

As discussed in Time Magazine, there are several false, yet persistent myths perpetuated about only children:

  • Only children are socially awkward: Research shows that only children tend to spend more time with adults; therefore, they are likely to learn social skills that exceed their level of maturity. Also, with the advent of the”play date” the parent’s of only children have plenty of opportunity to coordinate experiences to foster social skills.
  • Only children are maladjusted. The evidence is unable to distinguish between only children and multi-children families; however, research suggests that a marriage will be strained with the addition of a second child. Typically, a couple has their first child to enhance the relationship, and a second child to enhance the first child’s upbringing.

Across cultures it is assumed that being an only child is a burden to bear. In our current economic climate, it costs close to $300,000 to raise a child. If financial incentive isn’t enough, here are some additional advantages of having one child:

  • Higher scores of intelligence and achievement. Parents have more energy and time to invest in one child versus two or three. We are likely to see higher expectations for academic performance when parents are able to invest themselves in their child’s schooling.
  • An only child doesn’t have to “compete” for resources. With several children, resources including parent’s money, time, and energy are divided amongst children. Some parents are opting for a one-child household in order to give that child undivided attention and opportunity.

As you consider to what extent you want to grow your family, consider not only the financial incentives for an only, but the implications for the well-being of the parent’s relationship as well.