Attachment theory has emerged as one of the leading frameworks for the study of the role of early experiences in shaping social and emotional development over the life course. Longitudinal studies have linked early attachment security with social functioning, the quality of relationships, and mental health but, with few exceptions, these studies have followed a relatively small number of participants for only a few years. The primary purpose of this study is to investigate developmental pathways from infant to adolescent attachment security and to evaluate changes in attachment security in relation to social functioning and to changes in contextual factors. Additionally, central questions concern the ways in which security of attachment and working models of attachment predict the nature and quality of friendships and romantic relationships in late adolescence.
We took advantage of an unparalleled opportunity to address these questions by enrolling the existing longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) sample. The 1,000 SECCYD participants have been followed from infancy through mid-adolescence. We assessed this cohort at age 17.5 years and added multiple measures of attachment security, social functioning, and contextual factors, which we collected via phone interviews and web-based questionnaires. Parents, best friends, and romantic partners of the study adolescents also participated. The specific aims are: (1) To identify the mechanisms that promote stability and change in attachment security from infancy to adolescence; (2) To compare "prototype" and "revisionist" perspectives on stability and change in attachment; (3) To predict the nature and quality of adolescent romantic and friend relationships from early-childhood attachment security and late-adolescent working models of attachment; and (4) To address methodological issues in attachment research.