Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis
By John Bowlby
“Maternal deprivation” refers to a child undergoing separation from his mother, or primary caregiver, and the anxiety, emotional trauma, and other resultant effects of such separation. Bowlby used the term maternal deprivation to refer to the separation or loss of the mother as well as failure to develop an attachment. The underlying assumption of Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis is that continual disruption of the attachment between infant and primary caregiver (i.e. mother) could result in long term cognitive, social, and emotional difficulties for that infant. The long term consequences of maternal deprivation might include the following: delinquency, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, depression, affectionless psychopathy. “Affectionless psychopathy” is an inability show affection or concern for others. Such individuals act on impulse with little regard for the consequences of their actions. For example: showing no guilt for antisocial behaviour. This all ties in with the evolutionary theory because Bowlby claimed that mothering is almost useless if delayed until after two and a half to three years and, for most children, if delayed till after 12 months, i.e. there is a critical period. If the attachment figure is broken or disrupted during the critical two year period the child will suffer irreversible long-term consequences of this maternal deprivation. This risk continues until the age of five. Overall, Bowlby’s evolutionary theory states that a child has an innate/inborn need to attach to one main attachment figure (monotropy), and so therefore if an infant is deprived of this primary bond it will suffer from maternal deprivation and then face the consequences like not being able to form stable relationships in their future.
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