Present-day attachment theory is the work of many individuals. Sigmund Freud (1914/1957) began this work by outlining the anaclitic relationship that develops between infant and mother on the basis of the need gratification she provides. John Bowlby (1958) reconceptualized the attachment relationship as a feedback system not dependent on primary gratification and outlined its functions in evolutionary terms; early attachments were believed to protect the infant from danger, as well as to orient it toward caregiving sources that can provide nourishment, a basis for emotional regulation, and knowledge about language and the world. Bowlby (1969) also formulated the construct “inner working models” to describe the cognitive residuals provided by these early relationships and the notion that individuals carry these models forward using them later in close relationships with other persons. 
Mary Ainsworth (see Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978) advanced two notions, namely, that among the most important functions of early attachments is the provision of “security,” a construct tracing back through William Blatz (1966) to Harry Stack Sullivan and others, and that security in the child’s adaptation is promoted by “sensitive caregiving.”

Building upon these contributions, Alan Sroufe and Everett Waters (1977) advocated an organizational perspective on social development that considers the “organization” of emotion, cognition, and social behavior exhibited anywhere in development to be central to defining individual differences. Such organization derives from early relationships, especially with the primary caregiver (Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005). Early attachments set the stage for peer relationships by not only providing the child with a secure base for expanding his or her social experience beyond the family but also by carrying forward a working model of relationships. 
Early relationships between child and caregiver continue to bear a direct relation to later relationships within the family and to peer competence outside it. Social development, however, is better described as a series of intertwined or complementary influences in which the quality of early family relationships has a bearing on some aspects of peer relationships (e.g., whether the child has a friend), whereas peer competence bears on others (e.g., the quality of the child’s friendships). Empirical demonstration shows that these linkages extend through early adulthood and also involve romantic relationships (see Collins & Madsen, 2005).

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