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Regarding Maternal Deprivation Essay

1) Give an understanding of your feelings regarding maternal deprivation. “Maternal depravation” has been used to describe a whole range of situations in which the infant is deprived of his/her relationship with its mother/ primary carer. Bowlby’s theory of “Maternal depravation” was founded on the hypothesis, that if a child is detached on a physical and emotional level from its primary carer that this will have long term effects emotionally for that child. According to Bowlby this detachment will see an increase in disruptive and defiant behaviour as well as a detachment between themselves and their children in the future. Bowlby even goes as far as to suggest that the affected child could possibly grow into an affectionless psychopath lacking and social conscience.

Bowlby based his research on a group of children who had been referred to his clinic for stealing (Juvenile thieves). Bowlby found that 32% of them were indeed lacking any conscious understanding or empathy towards the society in which they inhabited and were a part of. 86% apparently had indeed experienced early separation (if only for a week before the age of five). And in contrast only 17% of these children had not been deprived during their early years. On this basis Bowlby claimed that maternal depravation would have the following consequences on the child:- * emotionally and physically aggressiveness,

* Depression,
* Delinquency,
* Dependency anxiety (clinging),
* Dwarfism (retarded growth),
* Affectionless psychopath (showing no feelings for others),
* Intellectual retardation and,
* Social maladjustment.

Maternal Deprivation has always been an emotive subject giving rise to extremes of opinion, for example, in 1951 Bowlby concluded that “..Mother love in infancy and childhood is as important for mental health as are vitamins and proteins for physical health” however at the other end of the scale Casler (1968) concludes “The human organism does not need maternal love in order to function normally.” Klaus and Kennell (1976) found that if a separation occurs during the first 4 hours after delivery it is infact the mother who may fail to establish a bond with her baby. Evidence has been provided (Freud and Dann) to show that it is not necessarily the formation of a bond with just the mother that is so vital, they conducted a study of 6 children who were orphaned by Nazi persecution and raised together.

All of these children made strong bonds with each other in the absence of a parental figure, all these children were under the age of 5 when the study began, Moskovitz (1985) then carried out a follow up of these 6 children and he found that in middle age two of them were happily married, successful, charming with warm personalities, the third was very insecure and suffered from depression, and the fourth had not adapted at all and was still preoccupied with the insecurities and privations of childhood, these findings contradict Bowlby’s theory that children who suffer maternal deprivation go on to have affectionless psychopathy.

Spitz (1945) studied children who had been hospitalised long term, where the child is separated from their parents and the home environment he said that children in this situation frequently showed apathy, slow development and general depression and he concluded that environmental circumstances experienced by children who are separated from their mother will undoubtedly make a major difference to the infants emotional reactions. He also concluded that ample toys and play facilities were vital on the grounds that boredom leads to distress. Rheingold and Samuels (1963) investigated 10 month old hospitalized infants and found that that child who’s mothers stayed with them but didn’t provide toys for the child to play with led to the child being fussy and they fretted more than those children who had both toys and their mother present.

Goldfarb (1943) found that children raised in institutions were often retarded intellectually and linguistically, he conducted a study of thirty children who had all been removed from their natural parents at a few months of age, half of these were raised in a foster home and half in an institution, when the children were between the age of 10 and 14 he discovered that the children who were institutionalised were significantly more retarded developmentally, but he didn’t take into account the level of stimulation these children had received nor did he consider why those children were adopted and some were not- maybe they were already ‘different’ at the start of the study.

Tizard and Rees (1974) studied a group of 4 year old children and concluded that with a good staff-child ratio together with a general provision of toys, books and outings this will promote an average level of development at 4 years of age when there is no close or continuous mother relationship. They suggested that children who are not often talked to or read to and are not given a variety of stimulation tend to be retarded whatever the social setting. However when they followed the development of a group of these children who were adopted from the residential nursery between the ages of 2 and 7 they did demonstrate some problems but by the age of 8, although the majority of them had well above average IQ’s half of them were experiencing problems at school, such as being unpopular, restless, quarrelsome and attention seeking. By the age of 16 however their relationships with their adopted parents was still good the problem lay with their peer relationships and the children were generally more anxious. They concluded that there did appear to be continuing effects of early maternal deprivation however these were different from those which Bowlby predicted.

Bowlby was criticised for the research he did and the claims he made. Criticisms such as 1) the adverse effects of separation are due to a variety of causes, not just maternal deprivation. 2) Linguistic and intellectual retardation is more likely to be the result of lack of linguistic and environmental stimulation rather than a breakdown in the mother-child relationship 3) the mother child relationship is not unique.

Many forms of research have been carried out based on different situations, children who spent their childhood in care, children in institutions, children who required hospital treatment at a young age, children separated from their mothers and indeed children who remained with their mothers but didn’t receive appropriate amounts of stimulation, and the effect these different situations had on children with regard to maternal deprivation. While evidence shows that some children who are believed to have suffered some form of maternal deprivation have gone on to have successful happy lives later on, whereas others have shown to have problematic relationships or psychological problems later on in life.

It is always good to remember that before making any generalisations that there is a definite relationship between early separations and later antisocial behaviour it is essential to consider the causes of the original separation. There are a much larger percentage of children who are separated from their parents due to family discord showing later antisocial behaviour than those separated due to physical illness. Bowlby indicated that children had an inbuilt tendency to form just one major attachment which is different in kind to that of other relationships they form however when children suffer maternal deprivation they are rarely deprived only of their relationship with their mother. There are always many different factors involved. It is a mixture of different factors and different circumstances which leads to such varying results.

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