Rutter (1981) criticized Bowlby’s maternal deprivation theory. The main problem was that it encompasses a range of essentially different experiences. Rutter (1981) argued that the general heading of maternal deprivation does not make a clear distinction between disorders of conduct , personality , language , cognition and physical growth, which occur in children with serious disorganized and dysfunctional families. Furthermore, Rutter ( 1981) stated that Bowlby’s theory does not distinguish between deprivation and privation , and the quality of the attachment is the most important factor. Privation refers to the non development of an attachment by a child , while deprivation focuses on the loss of or damage to an attachment ( Rutter, 1981). Privation occurs when a child has never formed an appropriate attachment with anyone, and is more likely to cause permanent damage. The longer the privation persists , the greater will be the psychological deficit (Haugaard and Hazan, 2004). In regards to the reversibility of privation effects, Haugaard and Hazan(2004) argued that it depends on the duration and severity of the privation. Reversal becomes less likely the longer the privation lasts and the older the child is when removed from privation. A form of privation is isolation. Emotional behavior, persistent disorders of social and sexual behavior are largely influenced by early isolation (Haugaard and Hazan, 2004).
The impact of isolation during infancy can be clearly visible through deprivation of stimulation, which impacts the development of language, general cognitive skills and academic achievements. According to Rutter(1981) the range of activities and experiences in infancy affects intellectual development , as sensory stimulation and social stimulation play an important role in intellectual development. Verbal skills constitute a major part of intelligence and the presence of language aids intellectual growth, therefore the lack of verbal communication during infancy can have serious, even irreversible consequences. Isolation in infancy has been shown to lead to later emotional disturbances and the development of reactive attachment disorder (Rutter,1981).
Although a significant amount of research has been reported on attachment, only a minority of researchers have investigated the disorder that results when the attachment process is disturbed, such as reactive attachment disorder. In the late 1970s and 1980s , clinicians and researchers began to acknowledge that children who suffered abuse , neglect or frequent disruptions of care giving often display varying degrees of cognitive ,physical and social-emotional problems. Reactive attachment disorder(RAD) is a relatively new diagnosis that is not well studied. Reactive Attachment Disorder is a developmental disorder resulting from either severe abuse and/or neglect of a child (Sheperis et.al.,2003). The core feature of reactive attachment disorder is inappropriate styles of relating to others. According to the DSM-IV the main feature of reactive attachment disorder is serious inappropriate social relating that begins before age 5( Zeanah et.al.,2004).
Reactive attachment disorder is any disruption in the attachment process resulting in the child’s failure to form a secure attachment with a parental figure. Secure attachments form when s child’s physical and emotional needs are consistently met, especially during the first 3 years of life. The prevalence of reactive attachment disorder is unclear. Attachment disorders are commonly misconstrued and under-diagnosed. The symptoms begin early and they often become pervasive throughout life; the disorder may bear a resemblance to many others by the time they are recognized( Smyke, Dumitrescu & Zeanah,2002). The DSM-IV distinguishes between two forms of reactive attachment disorder. The inhibited type is characterized by a failure to suitably initiate and respond to social interactions. These children may have a propensity toward avoidance behaviors. Zeanah, Smyke, & Dumitrescu, (2002) describe children with the inhibited type as lacking the propensity to initiate or respond suitably during social interactions. They may be hyper vigilant or highly ambivalent. The disinherited type is more closely associated with social promiscuity. The child may be excessively social in inappropriate circumstances. A child who is diagnosed with this subtype lacks any preferences when choosing those from whom to seek comfort, support and nurturance. This results in an atypical overfriendliness with relatively unfamiliar adults and has been labeled "indiscriminate sociability"(Hornor,2008). According to the findings of Haugaard and Hazan(2004) , children who have been chronically maltreated , especially during early ears , are more likely than other children to develop reactive attachment disorder. The findings of Chaffin (et.al.,2006) are in accordance to Haugaard and Hazan’s (2004) study.
Both ‘inhibited ‘ and ‘disinhibited’ type of RAD are the direct result of pathogenic care, that is, persistent disregard for the child’s basic emotional needs for comfort ,stimulation and affection , and disregard of the child’s basic physical needs(Hornor,2008). Some typical tendencies and behavior of those suffering from RAD include attention deficit ,destructive tendencies, aggression towards self and others, significant learning difficulties, strange eating habits, temper tantrums, lack of self control( Haugaard and Hazan,2004). Some of these behaviors were displayed by all children suffering from extreme neglect ,those who were found living in isolation in the wild or living in appalling conditions.
As seen in the case of feral children , and more recently a case from 2014 of children found living in appalling conditions in Paris , who suffered from extreme neglect , they all displayed developmental problems, and could not speak or walk properly. From the first documented case of feral children, that of Victor of Aveyron , to the most known ones of Dannielle Lierow, Genie and the recent children found in Paris, they all exhibited behaviours that suggest they were suffering from RAD. Reports on children with RAD, such as Dannielle and Genie, suggest that intellectual functioning may be below average or delayed initially but improve markedly with therapeutic intervention, though speech development is never fully gained. Due to the nature of this disorder ,treatment is long-term, with a good chance of success if diagnosis and treatment are early in the child’s development, usually before age 12( Haugaard and Hazan,2004). The most popular case is that of Genie, who for the first 12 years of her life was rarely exposed to speech and was retained on a child potty. Despite long term attempts from researchers to teach her language, they discovered that without early exposure ,some human capacities seem unable to develop. Their findings were in accordance to early finding on Victor, who despite improvement could not develop any speech skills(Brinkman,2003).
Studies of children raised in institutions have also shown a high level of language retardation and mental subnormality. They may exhibit language, behavior and communication deficits, but typically are a result of poor care, versus a developmental origin( Sheperis,et. al.,2003). In a study by Zeanah, Smyke, & Dumitrescu, (2002), both the emotionally withdrawn and the indiscriminately social pattern of attachment disorder were present in institutionalized children, but mixed patterns were more typical. The study proved that withdrawn/inhibited RAD symptoms identified in young children in Romanian Institutions remitted relatively quick after adoption, due to adequate care.
In conclusion, the impact of isolation during infancy can have severe consequences if it’s not dealt with before the child reaches 12 years of age. From the findings of researchers who studies the damaging effects of reactive attachment disorder results that some effects of the disorder can be reversible in adulthood , while others are permanent. Little attention has been paid in all above mentioned studies to sex differences in response to privation. Further research should also be carried out on children of immigrant parents, in order to assess their degree of reactive attachment disorder.
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Brinkman, A. (2003). Savage girls and wild boys: A history of feral children. New York: Media Source.
Gail Hornor, RNC, MS,CPNP.(2008). Reactive Attachment Disorder. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 22, 234-239. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2007.07.003
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, France inquiry after Paris children found 'living wild'.
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