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Defining the terms maternal and deprivation basing on the bowlbys maternal deprivation hypothesis

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From an ethologist view point Bowlby emphasised not only details about causation and development of behaviour, but also its evolutionary properties. These include a human infants dependence on their caregivers for warmth, shelter, protection and food, hence they have the innate need to form an attachment to their caregiver.

From the social approach, Bowlby considers children as part of the network of social relationships and hence places emphasis on all individuals concerned in the relationship children, parents, peers amongst others Vasta, 1997. Bowlby identified two main issues upon which he based his research, firstly he found that a high proportion of youths who were treated for behavioural problems had had a disruptive relationship with their mothers in their childhood - it is from this that Bowlby developed his maternal deprivation hypothesis Vasta, 1997.

This states that children should not be deprived of maternal contact during the sensitive period birth to three years when the primary attachment relationship is being formed, as he proposed that motherly love is crucial for mental health. This theory is founded on several findings; firstly from Lorenz's studies that many species, show tendencies of attaching to caregivers early on in life - he named this trait 'imprinting'.

Secondly from observations of children who were separated from parents on a short-term basis in hospitals or other such institutions ; as well as children in long-term institutional care who were retarded in social, language and cognitive development, presumably because of maternal separation.

He also drew evidence from Harlow's study into long-term maternal deprivation, in monkeys 1958which reveals the extent of it's adverse effects: The second main issue upon which Bowlby based his research was that children sometimes showed 'irrational' fears of being left alone, or with strangers Bowlby, 1971.

From this Bowlby studied in detail the development of attachments and identified five phases. The first phase being where the infant cannot discriminate between individuals. Then around 5-7 months the child shows preference to certain individuals, is more likely to smile to them and be comforted by them when distressed. In the third phase 7-9 months the infant displays stranger anxiety, attempts to maintain proximity with their caregiver and shows separation protest - this is because, as identified by Piaget, they have now established object permanence whereby they realise that objects continue to exist when out of sight.

The fifth stage is the lessening of attachment, when the child reaches schooling age, where their relationship takes on more abstract considerations such as affection, trust and approval Cowie et al.

  • An example of this is that in some cultures children are often put into day care, this could be confounding, because those children will have learnt that their mothers will return, and will not find the strange situation test as distressing as others Cowie et al;
  • The second main issue upon which Bowlby based his research was that children sometimes showed 'irrational' fears of being left alone, or with strangers Bowlby, 1971.

Bowlby's findings were supported and further advanced by Ainsworth, 1978, who developed the 'strange situation test' to investigate whether different types of attachments were formed, based on the type of care received. From these features Ainsworth distinguished three different attachment types and she, as well as Bowlby previously, proposed that the pattern of attachment at 12 months could considerably predict later characteristics of the child - such as cognitive development and social interactions Vasta, 1997.

Ainsworth found that most American infants were securely attached and used their mother as a secure base to explore, but were distressed when separated from her Ainsworthal. Ainsworth claimed that these differences were due to different mothering styles, in Germany for example, children are generally weaned from bodily contact early on in an attempt to develop independent non-clinging infants. Some psychologists however, claim that the strange situation test is not an accurate way to define attachment types, as they do not take into account the effect of cultural differences on attachment.

An example of this is that in some cultures children are often put into day care, this could be confounding, because those children will have learnt that their mothers will return, and will not find the strange situation test as distressing as others Cowie et al. There have also been found to be certain flaws in some of the studies upon which Bowlby based his theories. The major concern with 'imprinting' for example, is that it is based upon birds and mammals, rather than primates.

Outline and evaluate Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis.

Also the studies he referred to of children in long-term institutional care, where he presumed that the fact that they were retarded in social, language and cognitive development was because of maternal separation, is far more likely to be because of the generally unstimulating environment provided, as can be said for Harlow's study of monkeys. Also the retrospective evidence linking delinquent behaviour and maternal deprivation is open to all kinds of confounding variables, such as discord at the time, a general lack of supervision, type of friendships they had, rather than the separation itself Cowie et al.

Bowlby's research has had some detrimental effects to society whereby some mothers felt guilty for putting their children into day care whilst they worked, or others who felt forced to stay at home to look after their children.

The problem is that more recent research by Kagan et al 1980 found that so long as day care is well equipped and staffed, there is no difference in a child's intellectual and emotional development Brain, 2002. Although there is more recent research which has brought into question some of Bowlby's theories, mainly due to some of the studies upon which they are based, his attachment theory still remains a crucial concept which cannot be totally disregarded when studying social development.

His attachment theory has also had a wide range of implications, in relation to psychotherapy, as well as valuable outcomes to society.

When formulating his theories, Bowlby considered various approaches, not only did he bridge ethological influences with social ones, but his concept of an internal working model also acts as a bridge between psychoanalysis internal world of relationships and objects and cognitive science internal mental representations of the world.

Bowlby believed that individuals have internal working models, which are created from past experiences and inform us on the world, ourselves and our relationships. These maps can be for example, an underlying schema for relationships, based on the relationship with a person's primary caregiver, which determines their attachment type. Because these maps are influenced by our need to protect ourselves against painful feelings, it is the basis for transference and therapy can be used to help individuals develop less rigid and more realistic internal working models as a basis upon which to base future relationships Holmes, 1993.

Further beneficial outcomes from Bowlby's findings are applied to society, such as improvements in institutionalised care, where there is now easier access for parents to visit their child when in hospital, and a general greater awareness of children's needs.

Bowlby's views are also echoed in certain publications from the Home Office, a report by the Ministry of Education in 1955, deals with the problems of the maladjusted child, it states that children's early nurture is key to their development and later temperament. It advises, following Bowlby's theory of monotropy an exclusive relationship between a child and its principal caregiver - usually the motherthat they aim to ensure that that each baby as far as possible is cared for regularly by the same person Bowlby, 1979.

  • Further beneficial outcomes from Bowlby's findings are applied to society, such as improvements in institutionalised care, where there is now easier access for parents to visit their child when in hospital, and a general greater awareness of children's needs;
  • The problem is that more recent research by Kagan et al 1980 found that so long as day care is well equipped and staffed, there is no difference in a child's intellectual and emotional development Brain, 2002;
  • Although there have been more recent developments in the field of attachment research, no one theory has successfully overcome Bowlby's attachment theory;
  • Bowlby's views are also echoed in certain publications from the Home Office, a report by the Ministry of Education in 1955, deals with the problems of the maladjusted child, it states that children's early nurture is key to their development and later temperament;
  • Also the retrospective evidence linking delinquent behaviour and maternal deprivation is open to all kinds of confounding variables, such as discord at the time, a general lack of supervision, type of friendships they had, rather than the separation itself Cowie et al;
  • The major concern with 'imprinting' for example, is that it is based upon birds and mammals, rather than primates.

Although there have been more recent developments in the field of attachment research, no one theory has successfully overcome Bowlby's attachment theory. Hence his attachment theory still remains a relevant and crucial concept which should not be totally disregarded when studying social development, although the main points of criticism mentioned earlier should be kept in mind when doing so.