The Impact of Attachment Types and Parenting Styles on Social Development of Children of Divorce

Two of the most important psychological concepts that have gained prominence in the contemporary age are those of social development and self concept, especially in the case of children. Social development refers to the psychological and emotional development (as deduced from the assigned readings) of individuals and is a very significant issue in the development of a child from an infant to a mature adult. Self concept is basically the perception of an individual about him or herself (Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2009). For a child to develop into a responsible citizen, I believe the social developmental process and the self concept are very important factors.

The social development and self concept of children are influenced by various factors as attachment types and parenting styles. According to a research by Ainsworth, et al, (1978), there are three types of attachment in infants, namely secure, avoidant and ambivalent infants. Hazan & Shaver (1987) stated that secure infants had the longest and most satisfying relationships from the three groups, whereas avoidant and ambivalent types had very few or unsatisfying relationships later in life (cited in Eagan, 2004).

Parenting styles also have a significant impact on social development and self concept of children. For example, children with uninvolved parents do not fare well in any social or academic domain, whereas the authoritative parenting style results in the most competent and confident children (Baumrind, 1991; Weiss & Schwarz, 1996; Miller et al., 1993; cited in Darling, 1999).

According to the attachment types described previously, secure infants develop most favorably from the three groups. And according to the parenting styles, the authoritative style is clearly best suited to produce secure types who develop into competent adults with a good self concept and well balanced personality. Attachment types and parenting styles therefore have a deep impact on the development and self concept of a child.

Parenting styles and attachment may increase or reduce the impact of divorce on children. The impact of divorce on children has lessened over the years and children have learned to deal with divorce as a fact of life as they mature (Eagan, 2004). Research by Darling (1999) indicates that those children who have experienced the authoritative or the indulgent parenting styles have a higher chance of faring better socially. These children might stand a better chance of dealing with the depression that accompanies parental divorce and learn to adapt to reality. On the other hand children exposed to the authoritarian or the uninvolved parenting styles are less confident and prone to depression and may be adversely affected due to these parenting styles if their parents are divorced.

Attachment is also a key determinant of the impact of divorce upon children. According to Booth et al. (2000), children become adversely affected by divorce and results show that self esteem, academic scores and a variety of other factors are negatively impacted due to divorce. This effect might be enhanced in the secure infant types mentioned earlier as they tend to be more emotionally stable as compared to the other two types. The avoidant infants have very few relationships and after witnessing the effects of divorce first hand may be less inclined to form relations in the future. The ambivalent types have desires to form longer and more fulfilling relations but the fear of consequences prevents them from doing so. This fear factor might be enhanced as a result of divorce.

Based on the above discussion and the material presented, it is clear that divorce affects children’s emotional and social development. According to Eagan (2004), the effects have gradually decreased as divorce is not seen as taboo by society as it once was. Nevertheless, divorce might still cause severe emotional suffering for children. Parents should adapt the authoritative style as it has yielded the best results in children’s social and other skills.

However, as the adverse effects of divorce have decreased, it might be better for couples to separate if not doing so means that the children might have to be brought up in a conflicting environment. According to Amato and Keith (1991), children who live in such families perform more poorly in terms of development as compared to children who are brought up in a divorced family (cited in Eagan, 2004). Therefore in some cases it might be in the best interests of children if their parents decide to get divorced.


Eagan, C. (2004). Attachment and Divorce: Family Consequences. Web.

Encyclopedia of Psychology. (2009). Self Concept. Web.

Darling, N. (1999). Parenting Style and Its Correlates. Web.