’s Deprivation Essay, Research Paper

In his hypothesis, Bowlby believed that an infant?s failure to attach to a

primary caregiver would have long term effects. This essay will attempt to

evaluate Bowlby?s deprivation hypothesis. Firstly, the terms ?attachment?

and ?deprivation? will be defined. Following that, a full definition of the

hypothesis will be made, and then an attempt will be made to describe and

understand the studies and period of history that lead to Bowlby?s ideas and

the influence they generated. A full evaluation will be made of his deprivation

hypothesis, including detailed criticisms of his theory. Finally, conclusions

will be drawn to show if Bowlby?s deprivation hypothesis can still retain any

credibility. The first task is to define the terms attachment and deprivation.

In 1973 the leading attachment psychologist, Mary Ainsworth, pointed out that

?Attachment is an affectional tie that one person forms to another person,

binding them together in space, and enduring over time?. Deprivation can occur

when there is insufficient opportunity for interaction with a mother figure

(privation), when there is insufficient interaction with mother (masked

deprivation), or when there are repeated breaches of ties with mother figures.

In 1949, the World Health Organisation became concerned about the number of

homeless children, or children who were growing up in institutions as a result

of the war years. They commissioned Bowlby to look into this matter, and to

report to them whether these children were likely to be suffering from their

experiences, and what the best kind of upbringing for such children was. Bowlby

concluded that a warm intimate and continuing relationship with a mother figure

is an essential precondition for mental health. Maternal deprivation or a

disturbed emotional attachment between mother and child was said to cause

irreparable damage, not only to the child but also to society as a whole. He

stated (1951) ?deprived children, whether in their own homes or not, are a

source of social infection as real and serious as are carriers of diphtheria and

typhoid?. Bowlby?s report to the WHO had a great deal of influence among

health care officials, social workers, and parents. But the conclusions he came

to were very controversial and caused arguments right from the very beginning.

Contrary to behaviourists and Freudians, who thought that physical comfort was a

caregiver?s primary concern, Bowlby (1951) suggested that emotional care was

at least equally important. He states that ?maternal attachment is as

essential for healthy psychological development as vitamins and minerals are for

physical health?. Bowlby (1951) also proposed the concept of monotropy, that

is the need for one central caregiver, usually the mother, but alternatively the

father or another person. Finally, Bowlby (1951) felt that there was a critical

period in the formation of attachments. He believed that children who experience

maternal deprivation below the age of four will suffer permanent damage. Three

landmark studies conducted in the 1950s supported his views. In 1946, Bowlby

looked at the life histories of eighty-eight children who had been referred to

his psychiatric clinic, half of whom had a criminal record for theft. Fourteen

of the ?thieves? displayed an ?affectionless? character, that is, a lack

of normal affection, shame or sense of responsibility. Almost all of these

affectionless children (eighty-six per cent of them) had suffered ?early and

prolonged separations from their mothers?. In practice, this meant that, at

least before the age of two, these children had continually or repeatedly been

in foster homes or hospitals, often not visited by their families. Of the

remaining seventy-four children who were not affectionless, only seven (one per

cent) had been separated. This appears to be strong evidence in support of

Bowlby’? hypothesis, but the data was retrospective and, more importantly,

correlational. It can not be assumed whether the maladjustment was caused by the

separations themselves or if there was a third factor responsible for both

maladjustment and separations, for example general family discord could be cause

of both. This was one of Rutter?s criticisms, which will be discussed later,

in further detail. More support for Bowlby?s views came from a piece of

classic research conducted by Lorenz (1935). In this study, Lorenz became

?mother?? to a brood of goslings. It was already known that many birds

attach themselves to the first figure they see upon hatching and persist in this

attachment, and Lorenz?s work confirmed this. The phenomenon is called

imprinting, an ethological concept taken from embryology. During pre-natal

development, there are short periods when an individual is especially

vulnerable. These times are called ?critical periods?, and the effect is an

imprint. Imprinting is an example of an instinct, an inherited behaviour pattern

that predisposes an individual to certain forms of learning at critical times in

development. Bowlby suggested that attachment behaviour is a kind of imprinting

and is irreversible. However, in more recent studies of adopted children, Tizard

(1977) have found that older children can form satisfactory new relationships

with adults despite the lack of earlier attachment. A third line of evidence

came from Harlow?s work with rhesus monkeys (1959), an experiment was devised

where a monkey was provided with two ?mothers?, one a wire cylinder with a

monkey-like face and a feeding bottle attached, the other with no feeding bottle

but wrapped in a cloth. The position taken by behaviourists and Freudians (Gleitman

etc 1988????) would be that the monkeys should become attached to the

?mother? that offered food rather than comfort. In fact, the monkeys spent

most of their time with the cloth mother, visiting the other one only for food.

When they were frightened, they always went to the cloth mother. In later life,

the monkeys raised without a responsive mother became socially maladjusted and

had difficulty with mating and parenting. When considering Harlow?s research,

it could be argued that making generalisations from animal to human behaviour is

not always appropriate. (REF). Behaviourists argue that the difference between

human and non-human species are quantitative rather than qualitative, but other

psychologists believe that certain unique features of the human species (such as

consciousness and language) mean that non-human animal research has limited

applicability. REF Harlow?s research has also been criticised in terms of the

ethics of allowing animals to be manipulated in this way. Such criticism could

also be applied to Lorenz?s work with goslings. Schaffer and Emerson (1964)

challenged some of Bowlby?s claims. They found attachment to a specific person

started to occur at around 7 months, but multiple attachments were the norm. For

many the attachment to the mother was at the top of the hierarchy, but for

others the main attachment was to the father. They also found the strength of

attachment was not related to the length of time spent with the child, or to

basic caretaking functions of feeding etc., being fulfilled. It was the quality

and intensity of interaction that was important. Studies of Kibbutzs support

this as despite multiple mothering their primary attachment were still with

their parents (Sagi et al, 1978). Therefore, these studies do not support the

behaviourists of Freud as both theories state feeding is important for

attachment to occur. These findings suggest that Bowlby was correct in

identifying the importance of attachment, but incorrect in overemphasising the

single maternal role and the time factor for all children. Attachment, however

is only one part of his theory. Another part relates to the effects of

deprivation. Rutter (1981) felt that the main problem with the concept of

maternal deprivation was that it muddled together a range of essentially

different experiences. He felt that separation is not the crucial factor in

emotional disturbance. Instead, it may be that general family discord underlies

the emotional disturbances observed by Bowlby. It may also be that affectionless

psychopathy is due to the initial failure to form attachments (privation) rather

than attachment disruption (deprivation). Finally, situations where children

experience deprivation, such as short hospital stays, may create emotional

disturbance because of the strange and frightening environment as much as the

separation and interference with attachments. Bowlby?s reliance on

retrospective studies linking caregiver separation with delinquency cannot be

seen as establishing a causal link between the two. It is equally possible that

factors other than the absence of the mother (lack of parental supervision for

example) could have been responsible for the delinquency. Rutter (1981) found

that it was the circumstances surrounding the loss that was most likely to

determine the consequences rather than the loss per se. Bowlby?s deprivation

hypothesis was important in changing our view of early emotional behaviour from

one of dependency, the behaviourist and Freudian view, to one where the infant

is an active participant in eliciting care. The criticisms served to refine this

theory in several important ways: to include multiple attachments, to place less

emphasis on mother-love and to distinguish between different kinds of

deprivation. McFaydon (1994) suggests that many critics ?seem almost to have

got stuck in a time warp, hanging on to [Bowlby?s] early ideas, which were of

course extremely controversial but also important and influential at the



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