The Impact of Isolation in Infancy on Later Adult Development and Behaviour.

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Social , psychological and medical research has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between the degree  to which a person feels connected to others and their physical and mental health. The impact of isolation during infancy on later adult development and behavior can be evaluated through Bowlby’s attachment theory. The  attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relations , so disrupting it can have severe consequences. This paper has a look at the impact of maternal deprivation and the most severe consequence, namely reactive attachment disorder in order to emphasize the impact of isolation during infancy on later adult development and behavior.

John Bowlby (1997) developed the theory of attachment that underscored the significance of the relationship between a primary care giver, usually the mother and her infant. Bowlby's theory of attachment was established upon evolutionary thinking. Infants are vulnerable and incapable of fending for themselves. Thus, the attachment process is designed to ensure the survival of the infant and, in turn, the species (Haugaard & Hazan, 2004). Given that an infant is well loved and its biological needs are reliably met, the child will learn to trust and feel secure with his caregiver, and a healthy attachment will be made  This attachment will persistently influence one’s interpersonal relationship throughout life. There is a critical period for the development of attachments between infant and care giver. According to Bowlby(1997) if a child was deprived of their mother between six months and 5 years of age  this would lead to difficulties in later life. A failure to initiate , or a breakdown of the maternal attachment would lead to serious negative consequences, including long term cognitive , social and emotional difficulties (Bowlby,1997). Bowlby was correct in identifying the importance of attachment , but he overemphasized the single maternal role and the time factor for all children. This was one of the limitations of his theory , which was highly criticized. Attachment theory and monotropy theory(Bowlby,1997) formed the grounds for his maternal deprivation hypothesis.

Another part of Bowlby’s attachment theory relates to the effects of maternal deprivation. In his book ‘ Attachment and loss ‘ , Bowlby (1997) discussed the short term effects of maternal deprivation (protest, despair and detachment) and  the long term effects of maternal deprivation, through which he mentioned delinquency, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, depression, psychopathy and dwarfism. Bowlby(1997) believed that a disruption of this primary relationship could lead to higher incidence of juvenile delinquency, emotional difficulties and antisocial behavior.

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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 ...

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