chapter  3
28 Pages

Life-cycle transitions and attachment narratives

The development of systemic theory and practice has led to a significant shift in how we regard the nature and development of psychological and relational problems. Early systemic theory emphasised that individual experience was fundamentally related to the nature of the interpersonal context within which a child and other family members developed. In this it is also implied that development could be seen not just in terms of individual stages but also as intimately connected to the interpersonal processes and developmental transitions in families. In psychology, there has been a variety of individual developmental models that propose a trajectory or pathway of development from infancy, childhood and adolescence into adulthood. Clinical psychology and psychiatry also contain a number of developmental, stage models that detail a variety of progressive stages and the resultant potential for the onset of psychological problems if tasks and goals are constrained and/or interrupted. For example, Freud’s (1922) psychodynamic model suggests that a child progresses through the oral, anal, genital and phallic stages of psychological development. Inability to resolve the demands at any of these stages leads to associated difficulties, such as obsessive compulsive disorders if the anal stage is disrupted, or an angry, attacking personality if difficulties are experienced at the phallic stage. Freud and subsequent psychodynamic theorists suggested that the progression through these stages was influenced by the child’s social and emotional world and key critical events in their lives.