Attachment and the Development of Personality and Social Functioning

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: According to attachment theory, the establishment of an attachment bond to a caregiver not only provides the infant with protection from danger, but also many other resources presumably beneficial to the child’s general psychological development. Although there is substantial empirical support for a link between attachment security and social functioning in childhood and adolescence, less is known about whether childhood attachment contributes to social functioning beyond adolescence. Similarly, attachment has been found predictive of broad aspects of a person’s functioning, but few attempts have been made to link attachment to the currently dominating perspective on personality, the Five Factor Model (FFM). Results in Study I partially supported our expectations, by showing prospective links from middle childhood security to various aspects of social functioning in young adulthood. Further, security contributed to developmental change in social functioning from middle childhood to young adulthood. In Study II, middle childhood security was found to predict some of the FFM personality traits (primarily extraversion and openness) concurrently and prospectively, partially supporting our expectations. The third aim of this thesis was to address whether attachment disorganization, which has usually been found predictive of maladaptive phenomena, may predict also other, non-pathological outcomes. In Study II, we found that higher levels of disorganization in young adulthood were concurrently associated with more openness and lower conscientiousness. Furthermore, in Study III disorganization was shown to be concurrently associated with more New Age spirituality and more absorption in adulthood. In addition, absorption was, in accordance with our expectations, found to statistically mediate the link between disorganization and New Age spirituality. Hence, these findings supported our assumption that disorganization might be expressed in other life domains besides specifically maladaptive ones. Taken together, we suggest that attachment spreads its influence to a broad set of life domains through its continuous influence on general psychological components such as cognitive representations and self-regulation abilities. However, the modest strength of our results indicates that attachment is only one among several factors involved in the development of social functioning, personality traits, and spirituality.