Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis assumes that continual disruption of the attachment bond between the infant and primary caregiver would result in long term cognitive, social and emotional difficulties for the child.
To what extent has research into deprivation and privation supported this view.
Bowlby claimed that the role of a mother was essential to a child and without this essential mother figure it would affect the child’s psychological health. He called this theory the maternal deprivation hypothesis. Bowlby conducted most of his research through observing orphans and children in care. Bowlby held the view that if a child lacked an attachment to a mother figure it could have major effects on the child’s development. It was a theory which focused on the negative consequences of maternal deprivation. Bowlby argued that there is a critical period for the formation of attachments, he claimed that attachment should be formed within the first few months after birth. This led him to claim that the attachment to the mother could not be broken in the first few years of life without serious and permanent damage to social, emotional and intellectual development. Bowlby's theory was deterministic as there is evidence to suggest that not all children go through the stages of distress and the outcome of their distress differs due to the situation surrounding their separation from their mother.
Attachment is an emotional bond that is shared by two people. Schaffer (1993) defines attachment as the result of a close relationship between two people that is characterised by affection on both parts and a shared desire to maintain a close relationship. The maternal deprivation hypothesis (MDH) was also researched by Goldfarb (1943), he studied to group of young children. The first group of children had spent a few months in a poor and understaffed orphanage before they were fostered. The second group of children that he studied had spent up to three years at the same orphanage before they were fostered. Both groups of infants were tested at different times up to the age of twelve. The research was concluded that the infants that had spent three years at the orphanage did less well on intelligence tests, they were less socially mature and were more likely to be aggressive. Bowlby in 1944 studied a group of children that had been referred to a guidance clinic as they were juvenile thieves. He compared them to a another group of children that were admitted to the clinic due to emotional problems but they had not committed any crimes. In his research he found that 32% of the thieves were found to be affectionless psychopaths. Whereas none of the children that hadn’t committed any crimes were affectionless pychopaths. Of the juvenile thieves, 86% of them had experienced early childhood separation from either their mothers or a mother figure.
Privation is the failure to develop an attachment to any individual. To many researchers it is very important to form an initial attachment to an individual within the first few months if a child fails to form an attachment it can be very damaging to the child in later life. Privation is often confused with deprivation which is, the loss or separation from a main attachment figure such as the mother. According to Rutter (1981) privation can lead to a child being very clingy, they may show signs of being overly dependent on others and attention-seeking behaviour. In the long term Rutter discovered that a child that cannot form an attachment will most likely be unable to form relationships in their adult life, they may even develop antisocial behaviour. Rutter did find that there was a connection between divorce and the children showing signs of delinquency, suggesting that the family arguing, lack of affection or stress created a distortion of family relationships. Rutter argued that this was not related to early childhood, as Bowlby had originally claimed.
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