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Maternal Deprivation

Categories: ChildrenPsychology

An understanding of my feelings regarding Maternal deprivation

Maternal deprivation was a term used by British psychologist John Bowlby. Bowlbys theory of maternal deprivation was that any disruption to the continuity of a loving and mutual bond between child and mother/mother figure can be potentially damaging to a child’s emotional, intellectual and social development. Bowlby believed that if a bond is broken between child and mother between the crucial period of 6 months and 5 years, then the child is at high risk of developing things like anti social behaviour and mental retardation.

There are different kinds of separation:

Short term separation: This occurs when working mothers/ mother figure make use of daycare or child or mother figure has a short stay in hospital. Long term separation: Occurs when families split up and one parent has custody or when both parents die. Privation: Occurs when a child is orphaned very young and receives institutional care, or when a child is severely neglected or abused by carers so that an atypical attachment is formed.

Maternal Privation: this occurs when an infant is never allowed to bond with their mother figure. Prived children do not experience the close relationship most of us get to enjoy.

He believed that

The first 5 years of life are the most important in a persons development. Separation from a parent especially the mother is a major cause in psychological trauma in childhood Such deprivation and consequent psychological trauma has long lasting affects on the over all development of a child The attachment is monotropic meaning it is between the child and one other person.

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There is a critical period for attachment formation, he thought was between 6 months and 3 years. The child must form an attachment by around 6 months, after which they will have a strong need to be continually close to the mother/mother figure. Any obstacle to the forming of attachment or any subsequent disruption of the relationship constitutes “Maternal deprivation. The secure attachment and continuous relationship a child needs is far more likely to be provided within the natural family than anywhere else.

Bowlby believed that there are huge psychological consequences for a child who has experienced separation from their mother/mother figure. Bowlby based his research on a group of children who had been sent to his clinic for stealing, this was known as “ The thieves study” The aim of this study was to see if juvenile criminals who displayed affectionless psychopathy were likely to have had an early separation than those who had not. Eighty eight children half of whom had criminal records for theft. Fourteen of the thieves displayed a lack of normal affection, a sense of responsibility or shame. Almost all of these children suffered early or prolonged separation from their mothers/mother figure. The remaining seventy four children who were not affectionless, only seven had been separated from their mother figures. This appears to strongly support Bowlbys theory.

Bowbly said that “mother love in Infancy and childhood is as important for mental health as vitamins and proteins are for physical health”

I agree, Children need a stable, permanent, loving figure in their lives, for comfort, support, safety and to know and feel love. A happy child is a thriving child.

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Maternal Deprivation. (2016, Jun 13). Retrieved from

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