Applying Theory

Running head: APPLYING THEORY Applying Theory Dinah M. Creamer University of Washington-Tacoma Human Behavior and the Social Environment TSOCW402-Theodora A. Drescher November 24, 2008 OUTLINE This paper will focus on problems commonly linked to adolescents and their formation of relationships by applying attachment theory. INTRODUCTION PART ONE: Development milestones and tasks in adolescents (ages 13 to 18 years) • Attachment experiences • Trust • Parental influences PART TWO: Adolescent Problems Regarding Attachment • Attachment disorders

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PART THREE: Application of Attachment Theory • Attachment theory explanation of issue occurrence at adolescent stage CONCLUSION INTRODUCTION Adolescence is a phase that human beings go through before reaching adulthood. At this point of your life, you go through exciting and dramatic physical and mental changes. I remember this period vividly. Adolescents often ask themselves questions about whether or not other kids will like them in school, will they be accepted for what they are, what is happening to their bodies and why do they feel the way they do.

This research paper will apply attachment theory specifically to adolescents from ages 13 to 18 years of age. I will discuss developmental milestones and tasks, problems that arise in adolescence regarding attachment and explain how attachment impacts the development of the adolescents. Part One: Developmental milestones and tasks in adolescents (ages 13 to 18 years) Milestones and Tasks Developmental milestones are important tasks that most children learn or acquire that are essential for adult functioning.

These milestones are critical as they attribute to their social, mental, physical and cognitive characteristics and help them for their identities. Adolescent milestones include significant physical changes. Males and females both experience a growth spurt, and start showing signs of sexual maturity. They are likely to show formal operational reasoning, while their cognitive development becomes more complex by learning how to make important decisions and learning how their environment influences them. Adolescents are most likely to be searching for an identity.

They start to gain perspective on who they are, how they function and what they would most likely do with their lives in the future. Their self esteem tends to rise, they engage in more social activities and their emotional stability starts taking precedence. Many social activities in the adolescents lives are being lead by the type of peers they choose to associate with that most closely identify with themselves. Robert Havighurst, a developmental theorist, believed that personality develops through a series of stages with appropriate developmental tasks to be learned at each stage. The developmental tasks for adolescents are: • Accepting one’s body and using it effectively • Achieving new and more mature relationships with age mates of both sexes • Achieving emotional independence from parents and other adults • Preparing for an occupation and economic career • Preparing for marriage and family life • Desiring and achieving socially responsible behavior • Acquiring a set of values as a guide to behavior. (McNair, n. d. , ¶ 10) Attachment Experiences

According to Lesser and Pope (2007), attachment relationship is the relationship between a child and the child’s attachment figures that forms the basis for the views that the child develops of him or herself. “Cognitive development during adolescence affects the development of attachment. The capacity for formal operational thinking characteristic of this period allows the teenager to construct from experiences with parents and other caregivers such as extended family member. Views of oneself in attachment relationships now become more internally based and less centered on a particular relationship”(Lesser & Pope, p. 280).

Attachments with parents are the most important. The experiences they have with their parents usually define how attachment develops in the future. Trust In their adolescent journey, teenagers tend to make mistakes often by not having open lines of communication with their parents. When realizing their children have reached adolescence, parents must also change their behavior to more accurately deal with their child’s changes. Gaining adolescent trust is crucial. Adolescents will look for ways or factors that meet their needs to be able to trust a person. There are a few points to take into consideration when dealing with adolescents.

For teenagers, questions need to be answered with plenty of information and justification which in turn builds an intellectual relationship. Teens need to have guidelines to follow and terms on why and what will happen if they do not follow the rules. This allows the adolescent to have limitations while having command of certain outcomes of their decisions. Adolescents are going through plenty of life changing obstacles and listening to them may be the best you can do for them in their time of need. Many just need an ear that will listen rather than someone telling them what to do (Win your adolescent’s trust, 2007).

Parental Influences Parents have different styles of parenting. The type of parenting used with their children will help influence attachment and their identity. “There are particular strains on families during adolescence. Generally, parents are approaching middle age when their children are adolescents. For example, parents may be experiencing loss of sexual activity while their child exhibits a budding sexuality and attractiveness, or parents may try to experience success through their children” (Lesser & Pope, 2007, p. 281). During adolescence one of the tasks is to become more independent.

They learn from their parents how to make decisions, deal with certain situations and how to carry themselves in society. “Adolescents are moving away from being receivers of care giving and developing strategies for approaching other kinds of relationships. Parents need to adjust their own attachment relationships with their adolescents to help their growing child learn how to live independently. The central function of the attachment relationship with parents during this life stage is providing a secure base for the adolescent” (Lesser & Pope, 2007, p. 82). This will allow the teenager to investigate pathways to independence. Parents have great influences in issues involving the child’s future such as education or career choice. “Parents who offer warm, supportive and accepting bonds to their children teach them the social competence and social skills required to develop the same kind of relationships with their peers” (Meeus, Oosterwegel, & Vollebergh, 2002, p. 95). Part Two: Adolescent Problems Regarding Attachment Attachment Disorders

If normal attachment experiences are not realized prior to the adolescent stage, then attachment disorders can most likely develop. Among these are “Insecure Attachment (developed if children are not given constant, loving care resulting in feelings that the world is not a safe place) and Reactive Attachment Disorder (clinically recognized as an extreme form of Insecure Attachment” (Saisan, Kemp, Jaffe, Segal, & Hutman, n. d. , ¶ 2). “Attachment is a term used to refer to a general level of affection” (Werner-Wilson, 2001, p. 3).

Reactive attachment disorder symptoms are usually demonstrated by “excessive tantrums, poor self regulation, manipulation, control, persistent defiance, poor cause and effect thinking, depression and an inability to experience intimate bonds” (New York Attachment Center, n. d. , ¶ 3). “Insecurely attached adolescents and their parents may become overwhelmed by affects associated with individuation which, in turn, contributes to conflict. The adolescents may also become easily frustrated because they do not expect to be heard or understood by their parents” (Werner-Wilson, 2001, p. 7). Adolescents with reactive attachment disorders generally lack the capability to obtain bona fide relationships. “Programs utilizing nurture and non-negotiable closeness such as the treatment model can provide the corrective emotional experiences that help make up for the deprivations and deviations in nurture that alter attachment and subsequent development. Adolescents try to cope with attachment disorders and build a sense of trust and relationship with their peers through strong bonds formed within a gang” (Linda Zimmerman, 2000, ¶ 14).

Part Three: Application of Attachment Theory Attachment Theory Explanation: Occurrence in Adolescent Stage As previously described, attachment refers to a bond that is formed. Historically, attachment theory has been mostly applied to infants and toddlers. Attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth from the 1940’s through the 1980’s. (New York Attachment Center, n. d. ) The bonds that are formed at an early stage have long lasting impressions. I believe when a child reaches adolescence that the attachment foundation starts to reform.

The attachments formed with their parents or caregivers at this stage reflect how their relationships may go in the future. Adolescents start attaching to peers and future partners in ways that they were attached to their parents. CONCLUSION The main aim of this research paper was to link attachment theory to adolescents and potential disorders that may arise. I believe my findings in the articles I researched offers strong support that attachment theory can be applied to adolescents. The truth is that the adolescent stage can be a very tough and trying time in everyone’s life.

As I remember it myself, it was extremely important for me to form the bonds that I did with parents and close family members, as these attachments are playing specific roles in how I view, analyze and interact in my current environment. References Lesser, J. G. , & Pope, D. S. (2007). Adolescence. In Human Behavior and the Social Environment (pp. 281-289, 448). Boston: Pearson Education. Linda Zimmerman (2000). Understanding and Treating Attachment Disorder. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from http://www. strugglingteens. com/archives/2000/6/oe03. tml McNair, J. (n. d. ). The developmental tasks of adolescence. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from http://faculty. mdc. edu/jmcnair/edf314/topic/outline/RobertHavighurst. htm Meeus, W. , Oosterwegel, A. , & Vollebergh, W. (2002). Relations and Identity in Adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 93-106. Retrieved November 1, 2008. Retrieved from http://www. sciencedirect. com. offcampus. lib. washington. edu/science New York Attachment Center (n. d. ). What is attachment disorder?. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from www. newyorkattachmentcenter. om Saisan, J. , Kemp, G. , Jaffe, J. , Segal, J. , & Hutman, S. (n. d. ). Parenting and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from www. helpguide. org/mental/parenting_bonding_reactive_attachment_disorder. htm Werner-Wilson, R. J. (2001). Attachment in Adolescence: An Agenda for Research and intervention. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from http://www. public. iastate. edu/-hd_fs. 511/ Win your adolescents trust. (January 29, 2007). Retrieved November 1, 2008, from Wikihow: http://www. wikihow. com/Win-Your-Adolescent%27s-Trust


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