John Bowlby, born in London February 27th 1907 was a psychoanalyst who researched the effects of separation on children from their primary caregiver in the early years of life. He emphasised the importance of the bond established by infants and their primary carer- which is usually their mother. Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds with their caregiver have a profound impact that continues throughout life and is the basis of relationships. According to Bowlby attachment also serves a means of survival as it keeps the infant close to the mother thus the chance of survival increases. "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194).
Bowlby also claims that a person’s suture mental health depends on the successful establishment of attachment in the first few months of life. Maternal attachment is vital to a healthy mental development, just like a balanced nutritious diet is to a healthy physical development.
Bowlby’s theory described when infants are separated from their primary carers the effect of separation is evident from when the infants reaches 5-6 months. When separated from their caregiver the child becomes anxious and distressed, Bowlby describes this as ‘maternal deprivation’. When separation is prolonged to the first 2 to 5 years of life the child will encounter separation anxiety followed by the feeling of loss and grief. Initially the child will protest and cry and as the period of separation continues despair and withdrawal will set in and eventually the child will become detached from relationships with people.
In 1944 Bowlby conducted an experiment named the ’44 Juvenile Thieves’. The aim of this was to determine whether maternal deprivation and adolescent delinquency are associated. He studied a group of 44 juvenile thieves who were at a child guidance clinic and compared them with a group of 44 adolescents who were emotionally disturbed but didn’t steal. He found that fourteen of the thieves