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This essay shall discuss Bowlby`s views on the negative impact of maternal deprivation early on in life; as well as the changes in care provided to children, that was brought about by his work.

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Introduction

An attachment is an affectional tie that binds child and caregiver together for an enduring length of time, (class notes). This essay shall discuss Bowlby`s views on the negative impact of maternal deprivation early on in life; as well as the changes in care provided to children, that was brought about by his work. Maternal deprivation is described in the class notes as the 'loss' of care normally provided by the 'primary' caregiver; who is the adult that the child is mostly attached to. Such a loss cannot be substituted by emotional care from another person. The term 'privation' is used to describe a situation in which a child does not form an attachment at all. Bowlby has argued that a 'secure' attachment is important for healthy development as it creates confidence, independence and a sense of well-being. Whereas an 'insecure' attachment, (as well as privation), can cause the opposite; infants who do not feel loved and valued will have a lower sense of self-esteem, and feel less confident in exploring their surroundings. Bowlby`s theory of attachment, which focussed on the positive outcomes of childhood attachment and the negative outcomes resulting from loss (or lack) of this, was influenced by psychoanalysis. Bowlby, who was trained as a psychoanalyst, substituted maternal, for oral, deprivation in his theorising, (Flanagan, 1999). Whilst focussing on the possible pathological consequences of deprivation in the 1950s, the central hypothesis was that maternal care was as necessary for mental health as vitamins are for physical health. ...read more.

Middle

A highly influential study conducted Robertson and Robertson, supports Bowlby`s ideas about the negative impact of prolonged separation. One of the children involved in the study was a one and a half year old boy named John, who was placed in a residential nursery for nine days. While this may seem a fairly short period of separation, the observations showed that he went from being a happy, well-adjusted child, to being so distressed by the experience that he rejected his mother when she returned, (class notes). The work of Bowlby and the Robertson's brought about a significant change in hospital policies. At the time of the study many hospitals allowed parents no, or very limited, visits to their children; as the focus was on caring for their physical, rather than emotional, needs. It has now become generally accepted that parents and children should be allowed unrestricted visiting when either are in hospital to avoid the consequences of bond disruption, (Flanagan, 1999). The research also contributed to the closure of many institutions, (children's homes). Bowlby suggested that children should be fostered by families, rather than put in to institutions, as it would be difficult for the children to form close attachments; and they would not be properly 'socialised'. Therefore they would find it difficult to adjust to life outside of the institution once they were old enough to leave. ...read more.

Conclusion

This led many women to feel guilty about pursuing a career. Furthermore, Bowlby`s ideas were exacerbated by politicians, who at the time were eager to get women back in the home, to open up jobs for men after the war had ended. A positive aspect of his theories is that they are quite testable, with some methods of research in child development being repeatable, such as the strange situation test. Bowlby`s case studies arguably provide an insight in to the negative effects of maternal deprivation; however they are somewhat unreliable. This is because he based his findings around school and medical records, (as well as interviews), which may have been inaccurate, and not represent the true reasons for the problems experienced by the individuals; therefore validity and reliability is an issue. While much of Bowlby`s research has received support, (such as his theory of instinctual attachment behaviours); his theory does not account for individual differences, and why some children are better able to cope with poor early experiences than others. His work also attracted some criticism as he mostly used the somewhat limited case study research method; and his theory of monotropy led many women who were in work to feel guilty for not being home with their children. Nevertheless, his work has had a very positive effect on how children are now cared for; with emotional care being seen as equally important for development as physical care. ...read more.

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