As children grow and mature into healthy adults, a crucial part of their development is learning how to form intimate relationships. Despite the often-awkward first experiences that are a normal part of adolescence and young adulthood, these experiences lay the groundwork that will eventually lead to long-term sexual relationships,along with marriageand starting a family.
Still, the roots of a child's ability to form interpersonal relationships begins early in life and often depends on the quality of the relationship that children have with their parents. According to attachment theory, young children need to form a strong attachmentto at least one primary caregiver who can provide the unconditional love and support that allows them to form develop necessary relationship skills as they grow older. Though this caregiver is most typically the mother, researchers have long recognized that both parents play a critical role in helping children develop healthy personalities and the ability to become intimate with others.
But what happens when a child loses one or both parents before reaching adulthood? Along with the inevitable problems dealing with grief and loss, can being deprived of a parent at an early age affect the kind of intimate relationships children form after becoming adults?
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.