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, 71 (1), 145-52

The Legacy of Early Attachments


The Legacy of Early Attachments

R A Thompson. Child Dev.


The impact of early close relationships on psychological development is one of the enduring questions of developmental psychology that is addressed by attachment theory and research. This essay evaluates what has been learned, and offers ideas for future research, by examining the origins of continuity and change in the security of attachment early in life, and its prediction of later behavior. The discussion evaluates research on the impact of changing family circumstances and quality of care on changes in attachment security, and offers new hypotheses for future study. Considering the representations (or internal working models) associated with attachment security as developing representations, the discussion proposes that (1) attachment security may be developmentally most influential when the working models with which it is associated have sufficiently matured to influence other emerging features of psychosocial functioning; (2) changes in attachment security are more likely during periods of representational advance; and (3) parent-child discourse and other relational influences shape these developing representations after infancy. Finally, other features of early parent-child relationships that develop concurrently with attachment security, including negotiating conflict and establishing cooperation, also must be considered in understanding the legacy of early attachments.

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