Although attachment theory suggests that childhood experiences with caregivers serve as a prototype for adult love relationships, few explicit tests of this hypothesis exist in the literature. Drawing on data from a longitudinal cohort followed from birth to young adulthood, this paper examined correlates and antecedents of young adults' representations of and behavior in their current romantic relationship. Young adults who experienced a secure relationship with their primary caregiver in infancy as assessed in the Strange Situation were more likely to (a) produce coherent discourse regarding their current romantic partnership in the context of the Current Relationship Interview (CRI) and (b) have a higher quality romantic relationship as observed in standard conflict and collaboration tasks. Infant security accounted for variation in CRI security above and beyond the observed quality of participants' current romantic relationship. In contrast, the association between infant and romantic security was partially mediated by individuals' self-reports about their romantic experiences, suggesting that one plausible mechanism by which early experiences with caregivers shape young adults' representations of their attachments with romantic partners is through adults' expectations for and perceptions of love relationships.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge financial support for this research from the National Institutes of Mental Health to Byron Egeland, L. Alan Sroufe, and W. Andrew Collins (MH40864-18).
- Current Relationship Interview
- Infant attachment security
- Prototype hypothesis
- Romantic relationships