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The Biobehavioral Legacy of Early Attachment Relationships for Adult Emotional and Interpersonal Functioning

  • Lisa M. Diamond

Abstract

The attachment theory provides a coherent framework for understanding how individuals’ earliest ties to their caregivers during infancy and childhood influence the quality of their adult romantic bonds. Historically, these linkages have been understood chiefly in terms of individuals’ internalized, psychological models of relationships. Yet, we now know that early attachment experiences shape not only individuals’ cognitions and emotions, but also a range of basic physiological systems involved in stress reactivity and regulation, which influence the development and maintenance of adult attachment bonds. The purpose of this chapter is to review this basic model. Specifically, (1) the quality of early caregiving, in interaction with genetically based temperament and overall stress exposure, calibrates the infant’s basic stress-regulatory systems; (2) the infant’s resulting stress-regulatory profile shapes his/her developing capacity for emotion-regulation and his/her emerging interpersonal skills; (3) by adulthood, this variability in interpersonal and stress-regulatory skills affects the formation and maintenance of adult attachment bonds. Importantly, this is not a biologically determinist model, but rather a differential susceptibilities approach in which children with high physiological reactivity to stress may be disproportionately likely to suffer from poor environments but also disproportionately likely to benefit from highly nurturant environments. Directions for future research on such possibilities are outlined.

Keywords

Emotion Regulation Autonomic Nervous System Attachment Style Parasympathetic Nervous System Activity Vagal Tone 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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