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Chris Fraley | University of Illinois Summary Research on adult attachment is guided by the assumption that the same motivational system that gives rise to the close emotional bond between parents and their children is responsible for the bond that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships.The objective of this essay is to provide a brief overview of the history of adult attachment research, the key theoretical ideas, and a sampling of some of the research findings.Importantly, when reunited with their parents, these children have a difficult time being soothed, and often exhibit conflicting behaviors that suggest they want to be comforted, but that they also want to "punish" the parent for leaving. The third pattern of attachment that Ainsworth and her colleagues documented is called avoidant.Avoidant children (about 20%) don't appear too distressed by the separation, and, upon reunion, actively avoid seeking contact with their parent, sometimes turning their attention to play objects on the laboratory floor.
There are at least three critical implications of this idea.
Although Bowlby believed that the basic dynamics described above captured the normative dynamics of the attachment behavioral system, he recognized that there are individual differences in the way children appraise the accessibility of the attachment figure and how they regulate their attachment behavior in response to threats.
However, it wasn't until his colleague, Mary Ainsworth (1913 1999), began to systematically study infant-parent separations that a formal understanding of these individual differences was articulated.
In the strange situation, most children (i.e., about 60%) behave in the way implied by Bowlby's "normative" theory.
They become upset when the parent leaves the room, but, when he or she returns, they actively seek the parent and are easily comforted by him or her.
According to Hazan and Shaver, the emotional bond that develops between adult romantic partners is partly a function of the same motivational system--the attachment behavioral system--that gives rise to the emotional bond between infants and their caregivers.