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John Bowlby And Maternal Deprivation Essay

838 words - 3 pages

John Bowlby and Maternal Deprivation

Bowlby believed that maternal behaviour was instinctive in humans as
it appears to be in animals. Mothers and their babies form an
instinctive attachment to each other using genetically inherited
skills such as smiling, grasping, crying and so on. If a separation
occurs between mother and infant within the first few years of the
child’s life, Bowlby believed that the bond would be irreversibly
broken, leading to severe emotional consequences for the infant in
later life. He referred to this as maternal deprivation. Bowlby
claimed that maternal deprivation had the following consequences:

1. Aggressiveness

5. Depression

2. Delinquency

6. Dependency anxiety (being 'clinging')

3. Dwarfism (retarded growth)

7. Affectionless psychopathy (showing no feelings for others)

4. Intellectual retardation

8. Social maladjustment

(To help you remember these, the first letters of each spell ADDIDDAS)

Evidence for these claims comes from a number of research studies
including: Spitz, Spitz & Wolf, Goldfarb, Robertson & Robertson

& Reading: Davenport p43 - 46 for detailed accounts of these studies.

As well as the 'evidence' from ethological studies and psychoanalytic
theory, Bowlby also conducted his own studies of maternal deprivation,
notably his study on ‘forty-four juvenile thieves’.

& Reading: Davenport p41-42 ‘What happens if attachments are

Evaluation of Bowlby’s contribution

Bowlby's ideas had far-reaching effects, leading to a much more
child-centred approach by many institutions and organisations. It
became regarded as best to try to avoid the break-up of families if
possible because of the claimed consequences of maternal deprivation.

The recent debates about child abuse and the question of whether or
not to remove 'at risk' children from their natural parents can be
seen to be related to the idea of maternal deprivation. If Bowlby is
right, it may be better to leave such children with their parents —
the long-term damage which could result from maternal deprivation
might be a more important consideration than the risk of abuse. On the
other hand, if Bowlby is wrong, children...

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