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Evaluate competing ideas on the effects of deprivation on a child during their early years

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Introduction

Evaluate competing ideas on the effects of deprivation on a child during their early years. The socialisation process during a child's early years is vitally important. During the first two years of his life an infant will gradually become a self-aware being who passively absorbs the influences in which he comes into contact with. So, with the socialisation process responsible for making us who we are and our parents being the main agents of primary socialisation during early infancy, what would happen if a child were to be deprived of this most important stage of socialisation and had little or no contact with Human Beings? Two well documented cases of child deprivation are Genie and the 'wild boy of Aveyron'. Genie provides us with a fairly recent case of deprivation. She was discovered in November, 1970 and had been locked alone in a room for over 10 years. During the day Genie was tied to a potty and at night she was placed in a sleeping bag restraining her arms and was made to sleep in a large cot that was covered with metal screening. When she was born Genie had a hip defect which stopped her from learning to walk properly and she was repeatedly beaten by her father. When Genie was 20 months old her father decided that she was retarded and this is when he locked her away. ...read more.

Middle

He did become toilet trained and began to wear clothes and dress himself but again, he never managed to master language. Tests concluded that there didn't appear to be any physical abnormalities of any kind and through reading details of his behaviour he doesn't seem mentally retarded. Both of these cases demonstrate young infants who have been removed from society. Several people have different theories as to the main influences on a child's development and the effect that deprivation has. Here we will look at comparisons between Bowlby (1951) and Harlow (1959, 1962). Maternal Deprivation is the term used by Bowlby to describe the serious developmental impairment caused by an infant being separated specifically from the mother. Bowlby claimed that "mother-love in infancy and childhood is as important for mental health as are vitamins and proteins for physical health". He developed his attachment theory to explain how early experiences in infancy can influence later development. He believed that prolonged deprivation of maternal care would have grave effects on his character and specifically that children under the age of four would suffer permanent damage. In his 1944 study entitled "Forty-four Juvenile Thieves: their characters and home life", Bowlby investigated the domestic circumstances of 44 thieving children. Almost all of the children showed abnormal home conditions such as physical and emotional abuse but one group in particular had been separated from their mothers for prolonged amounts of time after building emotional relationships with them. ...read more.

Conclusion

This seems to match Rutter's theory that it is the family discord that affects the child. When we look at the case of the "wild boy of Aveyron" we do not know if the child had a maternal attachment as we know so little about his life prior to his being discovered. If we assume that he did have a maternal attachment then yes, Bowlby's theory is relevant because at some point that maternal relationship would have been severed. He was obviously deprived of primary socialisation but we do not know his family circumstances when he was born and the environment in which he was raised prior to him becoming feral. Therefore, we cannot commit to saying how Rutter's theory affected the boy. When we compare the two competing ideas of Rutter and Bowlby there are certain aspects of each theory that make sense. It is within our human nature for the mother to hold the primary attachment with the infant. Yet the environment in which a child is raised must also be vitally important, especially when we look at the primary socialisation that takes place in young infants. Sometimes it cannot be helped that an infant is deprived of a maternal attachment perhaps through death or adoption. In the absence of this maternal attachment the primary caregiver must ensure that the infant is raised within a functional, loving and supportive environment to ensure that the effects of the lack of maternal attachment are minimal. ...read more.

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