Attachment theory and adult intimate relationships

Loubser, Janie (2007-03)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


Close relationships are essential to health and well-being. There is clear evidence that problems in intimate relationships contribute to both health and psychological problems (Cassidy, 2001). In order to understand and treat adult intimate relationships effectively, there needs to be a theory that describes and explain adult intimate relationships. A review of the literature shows that the field has lacked a framework or a broad theory. A theory that proposes to be a framework for the understanding of adult intimate relationship, is John Bowlby's attachment theory. A review of the literature on adult intimate relationships, shows that attachment theory has become prominent in the field. Research suggests that attachment theory offers clinicians a way to grasp and help clients shape their attachment bond, transforming their marriages and their families (Johnson, 2003). It is therefore researchers' view that attachment theory offers the clinician a guide to understand adult intimate relationships and to treat and transform them. The objective of this review is to explore the applicability of attachment theory as a theory of adult intimate relationships. This review focuses on: A brief review of theories used in the area of adult intimate relationships; the central concepts of attachment bond and attachment styles and how these are carried through to adulthood via internal working models; the application of the concepts of attachment theory to the understanding and treatment of adult intimate relationships; the evaluation of EFT as a treatment model; and finally, the evaluation of attachment theory as a model of adult intimate relationships. Although there are valid concerns about the extensions and applications of the theory, it is concluded that the use attachment theory contributes to clinicians' understanding of adult intimate relationships. It was also suggested that extensive research on the use of this theory in other countries and specifically South Africa is critically needed to make well-grounded conclusions about the usefulness of this theory.

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