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203). Others who lose a loved one they had cherished for many years may have a disposition "towards compulsive caregiving" (Bowlby, p. 206). The welfare of others is of prime concern for these individuals; instead of experiencing "sadness and welcoming support for themselves" after the death of a loved one or family member that has been loved for many years, these individuals "proclaim that it is someone else who is in distress and in need of the care which then insist on bestowing."
This compulsive caregiving often manifests itself with the selection of a handicapped person to become that person's caregiver. Imagine the daughter who since adolescence has idolized her father, and never left the home but rather attended college nearby to her parents' home. She never made a lot of close friends and preferred to be home with her dad especially. So when he died, according to Bowlby's compulsive caregiving theory, she will latch on to a person who is in need of caregiving until she decides to marry.
Then, should she become a parent, the danger, Bowlby explains on page 206, is that she could become "excessively possessive and protective," in particular when the child grows older.
Meanwhile, an article in the Journal of Genetic Psychology (van Ijzendoorn, et al., 1995) references the Bowlby-Ainsworth attachment theory as it pertains to the effects of early attachment relationships between parents and children. This particular article examines the relation between attachment to an adult and "moral reasoning." Children do construct "increasingly complex internal working models" of the world they live in, and of the persons in their world who are "significant" -- which includes the self (Ijzendoorn, p. 1).
In the authors' Adult Attachment interviews they probed for "specific supportive or contradicting memories and descriptions of current relationship with parents." Early childhood memories were to be evaluated juxtaposed with current perspectives of the relationship. The results showed that individuals who were described as "secure-autonomous" see the relationships as having definitely been "influential in their development" (Ijzendoorn, p. 3). Then the individuals who dismiss their attachments as having "little influence or value" are classified as "dismissing" and those persons tended to "idealize their parents and to deny negative experiences and emotions." The third category is described as having "continuing involvement or preoccupation with past and current attachment relationships." Some of these subjects were angry at their childhood experiences and they cling to some unpleasant memories of those times.
The third category in part adds to what Bowlby refers to as disordered mourning. There are always going to be emotional ramifications when the long-term close relationship of two people ends with one person dying -- especially when the individual who is still alive has bonded with the deceased for many years, indeed, since adolescence. The loss of a family member who falls into the category described in the sentence above is a case of disordered mourning (Bowlby, p. 174). It is not surprise, Bowlby continues, that when disordered mourning occurs during adolescence the loss "in an overwhelming majority of cases is that of a parent or parent-substitute" (p. 174). But it is even more surprising when adult life of the person who lost a loved one "such losses continue to be of some significance," albeit the statistical data is not consistent, Bowlby explains.
Bowlby discusses a study in 1975 in Scotland (Birtchnell) involving 846 patients aged 20 and over who were diagnosed as "depressive" due to the loss of a parent by death. Another study that Bowlby brings to light is Parkes's research in which a child becomes ill after the loss of a parent. No less than "half" of those ill children had been living with that particular parent (who had raised them) for a year or more just before the death.
Because in the American culture "only a minority of adult children" continue to live with their parents after reaching adult age (21 or so), this result in Parkes's research supports the "commonsense view that disordered mourning is more likely to follow the loss of someone with whom there has been, until the loss, a close relationship." It also stands to reason that those children who become ill when a parent whom they cherished has passed away had a life that was "deeply intertwined" with the lost parent.
Bowlby addressed "overdependency" in his book Separation, Volume II of his three-book set. There are not very many studies of children who are described as overdependent, and the problem also is that the term is ambiguous, he notes (p. 240). Still, children who exhibit "typically anxious attachment" are included in the group of those too dependent on a parent, and likely to be devastated by the loss of a parent. A study he references on page 240 included 14 children who were "anxiously attached" to a parent; of those, eleven had had a "very unsettled home life" because of a change of caregiver, from grandmother to mother and back again in some cases. Shifts of residence also played a role. The bottom line is that most cases of "anxious attachment" can be understood as being the result of separations from parents.
In another study (of 105 boys) three-quarters of overdependent boys indicated "markedly dependent behaviour towards adults"; they can be said to be anxiously attached and in fact they showed feelings and expressed thoughts that suggest a sense of inferiority (p. 241).
Backing up the assertions made in Bowlby's books, there are any number of psychological papers in the literature that discuss the powerful attachments that some -- but not all -- adolescents have with a parent. Maureen E. Kenny -- professor of Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College -- emphasizes that the adolescent's secure attachment to a parent or parents provides a solid source of security and support while "the adolescent negotiates the numerous transitions and challenges of this developmental period" (Kenny, et al., 2006). What this security leads to among early and middle adolescents is a way to "buffer life stress" and to associate with "positive self-worth and low levels of depressive symptoms" (Kenny, p. 2).
"Internal working models" that those young people roughly 22 to 29 years of age rely upon for a steadying influence in a life period that can be stressful are based on parents, but actually may "surpass the importance of the [physical] attachments." The point here is that while the young person may not actually return to his parents and use that attachment as a guide, he knows that the internal working model he is blessed with came from his parent or parents, and this is another attachment link. Hence, when an bright, respectful young person -- who has been given an internal working model as a guide for success -- loses a parent that is responsible for him having that internal working model, there will be a deep sense of loss that surpasses stereotypical grief in some profound way.
Meanwhile Vivian Cornick's book, Fierce Attachments, takes the reader through a very personal and obsessive love relationship between the author and her mother. Her father has died and she says (p. 24) that if her mother "could not identify in another woman responses to a husband or a lover that duplicated her own, it wasn't love." When at the age of ten the author heard a friend of her mother's tell her mother that such an approach was wrong, that her approach to love "was absurd" and that her mother was "a slave to her idea of marriage" her mother's response was: "An undeveloped woman. She doesn't know life." That in a nutshell is the life that Cornick lived with her mother.
Wendy Gimble, writing in Nation, explained that the memoir "moves back and forth between the Bronx of the 1940s and Manhattan of the 1980s…the two women traveling together in a mad journey of detoured emotion." All because the mother never got over the death of her husband. The back and forth that Gimble references is on just about every page of this book. It is annoying to the reader who has perhaps had these same kinds of interactions with a parent after the other parent has passed on.
When her mother criticizes the generation the daughter is part of, saying "What a generation you all are!" The author takes off the gloves -- "Don't start Ma…I don't want to hear that bullshit again." "We had order, quiet, dignity," the mother says. "Families stayed together and people lived decent lives." "That's a crock" the author retorts. These remarks from the mother are evidence that she is living in denial, and that probably is due to the loss of her husband. Now that he's gone, the whole world has gone to hell, it seems. "Sexual malice ran so deep in her it was an essence: "Primitive, calculating, stubborn…made reckless by some burning imperative…She knew of no other way to make herself feel better than to make…[continue]
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