How Early Bonds Shape Adolescent Behavior and Success

How Early Bonds Shape Adolescent Behavior and Success


Vast studies have drawn attention on the fragility of childhood bonds since they are perceived to greatly impact and shape adolescent behavior and success. As elucidated by Bowlby (2005), the tenets of attachment theory are ingrained in the establishment a strong emotional and physical relationship by a child to at least one of the primary caregiver. Notably, the proponent of the attachment theory, John Bowlby, espoused that development of a strong early childhood bond with the parents is critical in child development. Premised on Bowlby assertions, early strong bonds with the caregiver is a source of security and foundation to a child’s development.

In the event that there is a lapse in the provision of such bond, Bowlby portends that a great amount of developmental energy is expended in order to search for stability and security in the adolescent stage of child development. Particularly, those children who lack such strong attachments during their early stages of development become fearful and are perceived to be less willing to participate in seeking and learning from new experiences. On the other hand, children brought up in an environment of strong bonds are confident and feel backed up. As such, they are perceived to be more adventurous and ready to learn new experiences that are critical in shaping adolescent behavior and success.

Cited in England & Sroufe (1992), early child-caregiver bond has profound effects on the cognitive and social functioning of the adolescents. It is against this background that this study will apply the attachment theory in examining how early bonds shape adolescent behavior and success. Giving examples that will accurately describe how the attachment theory is applicable shaping adolescent behavior and success covers the scope of this study. Particularly daily examples will be utilized in order to give a succinct insight of this study.

Theoretical Analysis

This section is premised on giving a theoretical analysis on how early bonds shape adolescent behavior and success. Particularly, everyday examples cited from observations and research will be embraced in giving insight to topic profile.


Exhibiting Maladjusted Behavior

This study established that in secure attachments, children feel loved and appreciated. As such, they are become psychologically adjusted. On the other hand, children who do not have secure attachment at their early years feel hated, become maladjusted, and develop abnormal behavior later in life.

In the present society Behavioral psychologists assert that human characteristics are normally distributed and view abnormality a significant deviation from the normal or average behavior (Cohn, 1990). Additionally, an abnormal behavior is perceived as a socially unacceptable and maladaptive behavior that often results from distorted thoughts.  In abnormal psychology, an individual’s emotional, cognitive, and behavioral attributes are examined.

Secondly, behavioral psychologists assert that abnormal behavior is caused by faulty or an ineffective bonding with primary caregivers during the early stages of a child’s life. On the other hand, cognitive psychologists elucidate that abnormal behavior is as a result of thoughts and behaviors that originate from insecure attachments and thoughts while socialcultural approach explains that abnormal behavior is learned within the social environment that include the family, community, and the culture particularly when adolescents feel they were hated at their early years of their development.

               A vast number of adolescents in schools exhibit a range of behaviors that are perceived to be abnormality. This situation has been attributed to insecure attachment during their early life. Notably, many studies have concluded that many adolescents in schools are engaged in truancy (Cassidy, 1999). As result, they consistently absent from school, consequently, affecting their academic success. Additionally, a number of adolescents have been reported to be isolated. This is maladaptive behavior that is attributed to low self-perception that is perceived to have its roots from insecure attachment of the adolescents during their early years of life.

Substance Use and Addiction

As elucidated by Lewis et al., (1984), a strong child-caregiver attachment during the formative years has been cited critical in giving support, confident, and self-esteem to adolescents. On the other hand, adolescents with insecure attachments have been found to exhibit hatred and report to be stressed. As such, vast studies have concluded that these adolescents have often turned to substance use. Additionally, their participation in academic activities has also been reported to be adversely affected.

Ingrained in report by the Substance Abuse and the Mental Health Services Administration’s 2003 findings, they concluded that estimates of 11.6% of adolescents in the United States were using illicit drugs. A further 8.9% of the adolescents were diagnosed with dependence (Bowlby, 2005). It is worth noting that the study also established that by the time adolescents are seniors in the high schools, an estimated 55 percent are found to have engaged in alcohol use and another 36 percent will have engaged smoking cigarette. This scenario has been attributed to insecure attachment thus confirming the fragility and influence of bonding at early life of a child in shaping adolescent behavior and success.

Children brought up in healthy parent-child relationship founded in effective communication patterns have been found not engaged in risk behaviors, substance abuse, and addiction.  In strong bonding, caregivers act as role models thus motivating and shaping the adolescents behavior and success.

Bullying and peer victimization

Characterized by significant the cognitive and socio-psychological development, adolescents who were brought up in insecure environment have been found to abhor hatred and mistrust feeling that they exhibit to the colleagues. Peer victimization is advanced by this category of adolescents. Notably, these adolescents exhibit aggressive behaviors to other students.

Further, bullying and peer victimization has been attributed to student suicides, peer beatings in addition to student shootings. Premised on negative experience of low self-esteem that originates from lack of caregiver bonding and support, this category of adolescents have low school engagement, have been found to be school avoidance and generally report lower school achievement. Besides they have been reported to be depressed. As elaborated by Cassidy (1999) further studies have affirmed that propagation of peer victimization is prevalent among these adolescents.

Recent surveys and citations have affirmed that bullying is common phenomena in schools across the globe. Cited literature indicates that 36% of the adolescents in schools are engaged in bullying, particularly as a bully or a target of bullying and in other situations both. The surveys have concluded that 90% of the adolescents who had insecure bonding during their early years are the perpetrators of this vice.


This study sought to give a succinct insight on how early bonds shape adolescent behavior and success and concluded that bonding in early life of children has vast outcomes among adolescents. Notably, adolescents who had secure attachment when they were infants were perceived to acquire stronger self-esteem, become self-reliant as they navigate and grow to adolescence. On the other hand, children brought up in insecure bonding are reported to be dependent, maladjusted, perform poorly in academic activities, engage substances, are antisocial, depressed, and anxious. Additionally, they have less coping strategies. As such, this study concludes that early bonding is critical in shaping adolescent behavior and success.



Bowlby, J. (2005). A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory (Vol. 393). Taylor & Francis.

Cassidy, J. (1999). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications. Rough Guides.

Cohn, D. A. (1990). Child‐Mother Attachment of Six‐Year‐Olds and Social Competence at School. Child development, 61(1), 152-162.

England, M., & Sroufe, L. A. (1992). Predicting peer competence and peer relationships in childhood from early parent-child re-lationships. Family-peer relationships: Modes of linkage, 77.

Lewis, M., Feiring, C., McGuffog, C., & Jaskir, J. (1984). Predicting psychopathology in six-year-olds from early social relations. Child development, 123-136.