Attachment is a concept that was first devised by Bowlby in the 1960’s. Attachment is the bond that is formed between a parent and child, for both the mother and the father. Originally Bowlby described this as a phenomenon that only was disrupted by a mothers absense but this was devised to include fathers once their role was more involved after women were more likely to go to work.Later, Ainsworth (1970) took Bowlby’s work and devised a way to test this in infants using a Strange Situation task. This would involve a stranger coming into the room without their mother there and they would record the infants behaviour upon the mothers return. This procedure brought about the classifications of Secure and Insecure. Insecure attachments can break down into Anxious and Avoidant. It has been found that those with Secure attachments become “good enough” parents due to the support and sensitivity they can provide, Jones (2015). Attachment is a lifelong phenomenon and is the grounding for relationships in later life. Therefore when a person has an insecure relationship it does not necessarily mean with their parents, this could also be with their romantic partner.
First of all it shall be discussed how an Avoidantly attached person may have problems with parenting. People who are avoidant tend to not seek support and cope internally on their own, as explained by Ainsworth (1970). First of all people with Avoidant attachments to their parents have a predisposition about parenting that is evident before they have even become parents, they have less desire to become parents, Jones 2015. Furthermore, due to this once they are a parent, they also find less satisfaction from being parents, than secure individuals. When it was examined later in parenting how Avoidant parent coped Rholes (2006) found that the more avoidant a parent the more stressful they found parenting and this can have adverse effects on the infant. They asked 106 couples through an interview how they found parenting and those who were avoidant drew upon themes such as less satisfaction, less meaning and more anxiety about being a parent. A path of how adverse parenting can occur was devised explaining that due to being avoidant it can predict less meaning and satisfaction of being a parent due to predisposed lessening of desire. However, this research is only true of mothers and it would be interesting to find out how avoidance is translated in fathers. To date, there is little research on fathers relationship with their child due to the fact that fathers as carers has been a relatively new shift in social practise and therefore little longitudinal research can be conducted. Furthermore fathers are notoriously bad in research and samples become few and unrepresentative of true parenting practices.
Next Anxious people also have problems with parenting. People who are anxious display conflicting behaviours and often elicit unsuccessful behaviours to gain support from their caregiver, as explained by Ainswoth (1970). In the same study by Rholes (2006) Anxious parents were shown to be exhibiting less marital satisfaction which provides less support, which has been correlated with problems in parenting. Although lack of marital satisfaction was not found to be a parenting problem, it is important to note that they did not use a broad measure and the mean marriage was only 3.8 years which may have not been representative of true results. Furthermore anxious parents appear out of psych with their childs mental representations which can have adverse consequences for the relationship and present further problems for parenting, Jones 2015. It seems that an insecure attachment can predispose negative attributions to parenting and therefore the parent will struggle. On the other hand, if a person with an insecure attachment with their parents gets into a relationship with someone who is secure, their attachment system can be activated and they can find parenting much more enjoyable and also employ parenting practices that are much more effective. Therefore this is reciprocal in making parenting more meaningful and satisfactory.
Overall, people who are avoidant or anxious in attachment to their own parent, or romantic partner, are more than likely to have problems in parenting as outlined in the studies in this essay. This is mainly due to the fact that they have not had exposure to a working attachment system so have no support or examples to draw upon which increases stress, decreasing satisfaction and self-efficacy in their abilities. However, there are cases in which these negative effects can be overcome, such as a secure relationship with a romantic partner to make parenting more successful to become “good enough” parents.