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This assignment focuses upon Bowlby's (1951) Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis.

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Michelle Jones 25/11/02. Maternal deprivation hypothesis. This assignment focuses upon Bowlby's (1951) Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis. Maternal Deprivation: A catch-phrase summarising Bowlby's early work on the effects of separating infants and young children from their mothers. He believed that maternally deprived children were likely to develop asocial or antisocial tendencies and that juvenile delinquency was mainly a consequence of such separations. The theory behind this of this was his advocacy of continuous mother-child contact for at least the first five years of life, which earned him the opprobrium of feminists. Subsequent research has confirmed that lack of maternal care does lead to poor social adjustment and relationship difficulties, but suggests that disruption, conflict, and poor maternal handling are more common causes of difficulties in later life than the loss of mother in itself. No area of controversy in Psychology has given rise to such widely differing assertations as the topic of "Maternal Deprivation". Thus 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..." (Rutter 1951) ...read more.


Bowlby developed the idea of Monotropy: The idea that a human infant would develop only one special attachment to its mother, which was completely different from the other relationships which it developed, and that it would cause the child great distress and lasting damage if it was broken". Bowlby felt that it was essential that the infant remained in almost continual contact with its mother during the first five years of life .He 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. Bowlby (1969) has argued that there is a bias for a child to attach himself to one figure (a characteristic known as "Monotropy") and that this main attachment differs in kind from attachments to other subsidiary figures. However there is a lack of supporting evidence for this claim, Schaffer (1971) has concluded that Bowlby's view is not borne out by the facts and that the breadth of attachment is largely determined by the social setting. ...read more.


The position taken by behaviourists and Freudians would be that the monkeys should become attached to the "mother" that offered food rather than comfort. Infact, the monkeys spent most of their time with the cloth mother, visiting only the other "mother" for food. When the monkeys 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. Bowlby's Maternal 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. Mc Faydon (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 that time. The diagram below shows "developmental pathways from maternal deprivation". Word Count: 1,079 words. ...read more.

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