-- Alan Mozes
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- How quickly and smoothly
people move on from a lover's quarrel has a lot to do with the
relationships each partner had in earliest childhood with the
people who raised them, new research reveals.
The finding stems from the the University of Minnesota's ongoing
tracking of a group of people that began in the mid-1970s, before
the study participants were even born.
Doctoral candidate Jessica E. Salvatore and a team of
researchers from the University of Minnesota report their
observations in the current issue of
The authors explain that when the study participants reached the
age of 20, each was asked to enlist his or her romantic partner in
a discussion exercise in which they were first instructed to launch
a topic of conversation about an issue on which there was
The resulting quarrel was then followed by a second discussion
of a subject on which the partners saw eye to eye. This discourse
was viewed as a "cool-down" period, designed to transition away
from the previous conflict.
However, Salvatore and her co-authors noticed that not all
cool-downs transpired with equal ease. In some cases, the partners
were able to quickly leave their fight behind; in others, one or
both partners were unable to let go of the previous conflict.
A subsequent look at each partner's early childhood background
(between the ages of 1 and 18 months) unearthed a connection
between the quality of their early connection to their caregivers
and their ability to move on from conflict as adults.
Specifically, those who had more so-called "secure" attachments
to their childhood caregivers seemed to have less of a problem
dealing with conflict in the present. In other words, caregivers
who had more success regulating the negative emotions of their
young wards instilled them with better coping skills for dealing
with negative emotions as adults.
That said, the authors noted that those with saddled with a
less-than-idyllic past are not necessarily doomed to live out a
contentious present. Their suggestion: when it comes to
compensating for an emotionally negative childhood, marry up --
"We found that people who were insecurely attached as infants but whose adult romantic partners recover well from conflict are likely to stay together," Salvatore noted. "If one person can lead this process of recovering from conflict, it may buffer the other person and the relationship."
"That, to us, was the most exciting finding," he added. "There's something about the important people later in our lives that changes the consequences of what happened earlier."
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