Attachment, Social Value Orientation and At-Risk Behaviour in Early Adolescence (pp. 97-116)
Authors: (Diego Sarracino & Marco Innamorati)
Abstract: This chapter examines attachment specificity in early adolescence and its relationships with social value orientation and externalizing behaviour. Early adolescence is an eventful developmental period, during which children go through physical, cognitive, emotional and social changes. During this period of transition, attachment security reflects not only the quality of ongoing relationships with parents, but it is also likely to be associated to how adolescents process social relationships with “others” – that is, their “social value orientation”. Attachment security has possible implications for adolescents’ risk-taking as well. Attachment theory and research traditionally assumed continuity between attachment patterns in childhood and adolescence. On the other hand, recent studies showed that adolescents’ attachment behaviour seems to clearly differ from the patterns of attachment behaviour seen in childhood. Indeed, adolescents seem constantly engaged in an active and intentional departure from the relationship with parents and other family attachment figures, often displaying the spirit of opposition and the capacity for autonomy. However, adolescent autonomy is not established on the detriment of the relationship with parents, but on the addition of a set of secure relationships that will probably last over and above adolescence. Therefore, the relation with parents and with peers radically changes, possibly leading the adolescent to take a risky behaviour, if the environment has not provided the security needed to address this transitional period. In this regard, researchers define this variable “sensation seeking”, which is the search of extreme thrills oriented to risky, dangerous and sometimes extreme, if not potentially self-destructive experiences.