Around the world humans constantly connect and depend on each other, especially within intimate relationships. This concept of sharing strong connections with a partner is something that is universal for humans (Bradbury & Karney, 2013). Individuals are shaped and affected by the relationships they have from childhood whether it be positive or negative. Relationships affect people on many levels. Long-term experiences and observations during the early stages have a large impact on future intimate relationships throughout life. Close relationships shared with your significant others have been shown to bring health benefits. (and in some cases improvements from the positive impact they bring to one’s life. ) Interdependence (Bradbury & Karney, 2013) within a social setting is something that is present in many types of relationships such as business, casual, close, or intimate, because of the mutual sway two people have on each other. A key step when a relationship is becoming more important is(is not only the behavioural feedback but most importantly how) the growth of interdependence between two people which continues to build on itself. The many ways these relationships can work, evolve, grow, sour, and potentially dissolve is what makes them so complex and ever-changing.
The amount of space someone encompasses in another’s personal world shows the level of importance they have in that person’s life. This intertwining within their social network provides many kinds of support, especially social and emotional support. Having solid relationships and support networks in life are not only beneficial links to living a long, happy life but also to a healthier, more balanced life. Those in committed long-term relationships such as marriage and cohabitation have been found to have less risk of poor health than those who are single. Positive relationships with family and friends are a great resource to combat illness resulting from various types of stress (Arntén, Archer, Jansson, 2018). Support from loved ones is important when dealing with large emotional issues because it can be the factor needed in successfully coping. Even though people have ways of coping on their own, these may not always be enough. They may need assistance from those around them to support them in resolving or overcoming struggles, most notably with situations that involve high stress. Studies focusing on couples during health struggles such as cancer diagnosis and treatment have shown that supporting your partner, and offering assistance to each other when dealing with heightened emotion and stress will improve coping capabilities (Lee & Roberts, 2018).
Parent’s life experiences have a huge effect on how their children behave in the future through intergenerational transference or intergenerational transmission effect (Bradbury & Karney, 2013). Children have a higher risk of experiencing issues in mental health, physical health such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and substance abuse when they are adults if their parents were living in lower socioeconomic backgrounds, had a mental illness, or had problems with substance abuse, as shown in studies such as the Australian Temperament Project (Price-Robertson, Smart, & Bromfield, 2010). At the beginning, the Australian Temperament Project (ATP) started in 1983 with the participation of 2443 families to be studied, with the “[aim] to trace the pathways to psychosocial adjustment and maladjustment across the lifespan, and to investigate the contribution of personal, family and environmental factors to development and wellbeing” (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2017, para. 2). Predicted positive and negative outcomes (see Figure 1.) in adulthood based on good or bad family experiences as a child were used to map out a change in children. This longitudinal study was mainly survey based and has collected 16 waves of data still ongoing, continuing to look at children as they grow into adults (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2017). The survey questionnaires have been filled out by a variety of people that surround the child such as family, teachers, child health nurses and even the child (starting at eleven years old) concerning an extensive list of factors like behaviour in various situations to gather change in children over time (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2017). They have observed three generations of families, over the course of the study, and the number of families still currently participating is around two thirds (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2017). They found that in familial situations, having an environment of encouragement and positivity is key for children in their development to be able to thrive and succeed, but on the other hand it can go the other way by hindering the wellbeing of children and their development with an environment that is insufficient and unfavourable (Price-Robertson et al., 2010). Figure 2 shows the positive impacts that were seen when the child reached adulthood in the ATP. In the same way, negative relationships with family in childhood, more specifically the relationship with parents can result in various long-term health problems as shown in table 1.
The study of the relationship between a child and their primary caregiver has been separately researched by Bowlby, Ainsworth, and Harlow who have given some insight into the vast realm of relationships. Mary Ainsworth studied attachment styles: secure attachment, insecure-avoidant attachment, insecure-anxious attachment, and disorganized attachment, which are the categories of behaviour created after monitoring the reaction from a child to the return of their mother after being left in a room with a stranger (Lilienfeld et al., 2017). Harry Harlow studied infant Rhesus monkeys that were isolated from their mothers and how comforting physical contact plays a large role in developing attachment (Lilienfeld et al., 2017). John Bowlby’s attachment theory shows that the type of connection shared between a child and their primary caregiver during childhood will shape and influence relationships in adulthood (Bradbury & Karney, 2013). The four types of attachment in Bowlby’s theory are “secure, preoccupied, dismissing, and fearful” (Bradbury & Karney, 2013, p. 98), which “[account] for relationship patterns across the lifespan” (Bradbury & Karney, 2013, p.128). Each theory in its own way has been influential on the study of relationships especially in regards to how relationships impact behaviour.
The downside of research on human relationships is there is a large amount of variability and parts to factor in which brings limitations to how encompassing theories can be. Personal surroundings like social circles, lifestyle, culture, financial status, family, place of residence all influence identity making humans so diverse, but all that diversity is what makes studying people so challenging. Small changes can make large differences with such a range. It would be hard to make studies that encompass everyone even with (small subsections factors such as”,) outliers in data collected will continually be a problem. In addition, many studies conducted within the field of relationships use the self-report and survey methods to collect data which brings forward various disadvantages like the possibility of data being skewed or dishonest answers to questions. As well, many studies tend to be longitudinal due to the kind of information being collected which can result in some loss in the number of participants over time like what occurred in the ATP. There are many negatives and limitations reagrding studies already done that have to be considered. The reliability in Mary Ainsworth’s study on attachment styles was poor due to the fact that it was all based only on one measure, and categories infants were placed in could change based on current circumstances (Lilienfeld et al., 2017). Likewise, John Bowlby’s attachment theory is limited because of a lack of possible variability in the categories especially when partners are in the same category (Bradbury & Karney, 2013). As in many studies, there are disadvantages and advantages with each, but considering options and being aware of risks and potential gains in advance are important factors to consider.
Impulsivity sometimes makes people act before they stop, think and consider their actions; actions have consequences even if at the time they aren’t visible. Thinking towards the future is so important because one person can greatly impact someone else’s life in a positive or negative way and not even know, because it was just a trivial thing. Families make a large and lasting impression on one and another, not only do they play a role in personal growth but positive family relationships like that between a parent and child help to pave the way for good social growth, and the ability to form other positive relationships in the future. Although there are many positive outcomes from one’s personal relationships, there are many negative outcomes resulting from personal relationships that also have to be considered such as those from maltreatment from a parent as shown in the ATP results, or intergenerational transference. (Will they ever know to what extent can people be really influenced by others in a way that will continue to impact them in the future?)