‘A young child’s experience of an encouraging, supportive and co-operative mother, and a little later father, gives him a sense of worth, a belief in the helpfulness of others, and a favourable model on which to build future relationships … Other types of early childhood and later experience have effects of other kinds, leading usually to personality structures of lowered resilience and defective control, vulnerable structures which are also apt to persist.’ John Bowlby
A great deal of the infant’s early learning is dedicated to the area known as social development. Two key aspects within the area of social development are ‘sociability’ and ‘attachment’. Sociability is the tendency to interact in a friendly and positive way with many others. Attachment is a strong and long-lasting emotional bond between two persons characterised by mutual affection and a desire for closeness. One can say that the first monotropic attachments formed by infants are hugely important; and, that these earliest attachments can be considered the starting point for their lifelong social and emotional involvements with others. Put simply, the quality of the earliest attachment[s] can be seen as prototypical for the quality of attachment one-self becomes capable of directing toward the other as one matures (after Ainsworth 1969; 1970; 1978; Bowlby 1944; 1952; 1958; 1969; 1973; 1980; Harlow 1959; Winnicott 1953; 1958).
‘Ethology & Ethics’ – Konrad Lorenz & Harry Harlow
Ethologists study animals in their environment in order to gain a better understanding of animal behaviours. One such ethologist, Konrad Lorenz (b. 1903 – d. 1989), rediscovered findings that suggested that the young of some species of birds - in this case greylag geese - appeared to follow the first object they saw after hatching, and continued to follow this same object thereafter. This type of ‘bonding’ was first reported by a nineteenth century biologist called Douglas Spalding, and later described by Lorenz’s mentor Oskar Heinroth as ‘filial imprinting’. That said, working with human subjects is apparently more ethically charged than working with animals, and so in 1959, whilst working with laboratory bred rhesus monkeys, Harry F. Harlow and his team at University of Wisconsin came up with some rather surprising results to their experimentation with infant and parent monkeys. These experiments were to raise significant ethical questions, and make the name Harlow both famous and infamous in equal measure. In Harlow’s initial experiments, infant monkeys were separated from their mothers at six to twelve hours after birth and were raised instead with substitute or surrogate mothers made either of heavy wire mesh or of wood covered with cloth. Both mothers were the same size, but the wire mother had no soft surfaces while the other mother was cuddly – covered with foam rubber and soft terry cloth. Both mothers were also warmed by an electric light placed inside them. In one experiment, both types of surrogates were present in the cage, but only one was equipped with a nipple from which the infant could nurse. Some infants received nourishment from the wire mother, and others were fed from the cloth mother. Even when the wire mother was the source of nourishment (and a source of warmth provided by the electric light), the infant monkey spent a greater amount of time clinging to the cloth surrogate. These results led researchers to believe the need for closeness and affection goes deeper than a need for warmth and food. The monkeys raised by the dummy mothers also appeared to engage in strange behavioural patterns later in their adult life. Some sat clutching themselves, rocking constantly back and forth; a stereotypical behaviour pattern for excessive and misdirected aggression. Normalised sexual behaviours were replaced my misdirected and atypical patterns; that is, isolated females from amongst the experimentation group ignored approaching males from outside the group, while isolated males from the group made inaccurate attempts to copulate with females from outside the group. As parents these isolated female monkeys, the motherless mothers, as Harlow called them, were either negligent or abusive. Negligent mothers did not nurse, comfort, or protect their young, nor did they harm them. The abusive mothers violently bit or otherwise injured their babies, to the point that many of them died. Deprivations of emotional bonds created a crucial cleave in the ability to integrate a secure base for their attachment with their own offspring (see Eysenck, M. W., (2000), Psychology; A Student’s Handbook, and Principles of General Psychology, (1980). Harlow's research suggests the fundamental importance of child/parent and parent/child bonding. Not only does the child look to his/her care-giver for basic needs such as food, safety, and warmth (so-named ‘cupboard love’), but s/he also needs to feel love, acceptance, and affection from the caregiver in equal measure. Harlow’s findings suggest a link between long-term psycho-physical effects of delinquency or inadequate attentiveness and failed emotional needs in the very young which impacts upon the later lives of the adult.
‘The Well of Despair’
Nevertheless, all was not well in the private and social life of Harlow himself. Although his investigations into the ‘nature of love’ and the ‘role of attachment’ were both interesting and productive, the same cannot be said about his post-1960 investigations into the ‘destruction of attachment behaviours’ and ‘the nature of human depression’. This later work with rhesus monkeys, the so-called ‘Well of Despair’ – basically, a blacked out cage intended for ‘total social isolation’ – and the ‘Rape rack’ experiments, marks not only a movement into a manifestly unethical practice, but seemingly heralds and coincides with his own descent into depression and alcoholism - a sad end to an otherwise insightful experimental career as a comparative ethologist. Tragically, Harlow could not be made to see by his students that what he was doing to these animals was cruel and unnecessary. In his own dispassionate and weak defence, he wrote:
“No monkey has died during isolation. When initially removed from total social isolation, however, they usually go into a state of emotional shock, characterized by ... autistic self-clutching and rocking. One of six monkeys isolated for 3 months refused to eat after release and died 5 days later. The autopsy report attributed death to emotional anorexia. ... The effects of 6 months of total social isolation were so devastating and debilitating that we had assumed initially that 12 months of isolation would not produce any additional decrement. This assumption proved to be false; 12 months of isolation almost obliterated the animals socially ...”
It has been said that some of the monkeys used in Harlow et al’s experiments remained caged in isolation for up to fifteen years.
‘Attachment, Deprivation & Privation’
John Bowlby was born in 1907. He started his intellectual journey at Cambridge, where he read medicine upon the advice of his surgeon father. In his third year of study, John Bowlby became drawn to what would later be known as developmental psychology, and he temporarily gave up plans for a medical career. After graduation he pursued his new-found interest through volunteering at two progressive schools; the second of these a small analytically-oriented residential institution that served about 24 maladjusted children aged 4-18 years. Bowlby was quite modest about his actual work at the school: “I don't think I would like to describe what I did - I did my best.” Two children there had an enormous impact on him. One was a very isolated, remote and affectionless teenager with no experience of a stable mother figure. This child had been expelled from his previous school for stealing. The second child was an anxious boy of 7 or 8 who trailed Bowlby around, and was known as his shadow. An additional major influence on Bowlby's development was John Alford, one of the other volunteer staff at the school. It was with him that Bowlby spent many hours discussing the affect of early experience, or lack of it, upon character development. By the time Bowlby’s volunteer service ended, John Alford had successfully persuaded him to resume his medical studies in order to pursue training in child psychiatry and psychotherapy so that he might further pursue his ideas about family influences upon children's development. Bowlby had accepted Alford's advice reluctantly because he did not look forward to the medical training which was required as the passport to psychiatry. A saving grace was his immediate acceptance into the British Psychoanalytic Society as a student-candidate. His analyst there was Joan Rivière. He was also supervised by Melanie Klein – the same path as Donald Winnicott before him. Interestingly, training in psychiatry and psychoanalysis provided Bowlby with a reasonably tolerant environment in which to develop his ideas. Much more influential than the analysts and psychiatrists whom had been his teachers were two social workers whom he encountered during his stint as a fellow at the London Child Guidance Clinic upon completion of his training: Christoph Heinecke and James Robertson. These two people shared his ideas about the importance for healthy emotional development of a child's early family experience. Throughout this period, Bowlby felt very strongly that psychoanalytic thought was putting far too much emphasis on the child’s phantasy world and far too little on actual events. He expressed this view in an interesting paper ‘The Influence of Early Environment in the development of neurosis and neurotic character’, (1940), Int. Journal of Psychoanal., XXI, 1-25, which already contains many of the ideas which were later to become central to attachment theory. In emphasising the influence of early family environment on the development of neurosis, he claimed that “psychoanalysts like the nurseryman should study intensively, rigorously, and at first hand, the nature of the organism, the properties of the soil and the interaction of the two”. Bowlby dwelt on the adverse affects of early separation, advising mothers to visit their young children in the wards. Following his own injunction for more rigorous studies, Bowlby used case-notes from his work at the child guidance clinic to prepare the classic paper on Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves, their characters and home lives (published in 1944). Here, a significant minority of the children turned out to have affectionless characters, a phenomenon Bowlby linked to their histories of maternal deprivation and separation. Upon returning from army service in 1945, Bowlby became head of the Children's Department at the Tavistock Clinic. In order to highlight the importance of the parent-child relationship, he promptly renamed it The Department for Children and Parents. Unlike most psychoanalysts of his time - and of ours- Bowlby was deeply interested in finding out the actual patterns of family interaction involved in both healthy and pathological development. Directing this department entailed running a clinic, undertaking training and doing research. To Bowlby's disappointment, much of the clinical work on the department was done by people with a Kleinian orientation, who regarded his emphasis on actual family interaction patterns as largely irrelevant. Because of this approach rift, Bowlby had to found his own research unit because he could not use the department's clinical cases for the research he was after. In 1948, after obtaining his first research funds, Bowlby hired James Robertson to do observations of young children who were hospitalised, institutionalised or otherwise separated from their parents. It is well-known that Bowlby focused the efforts of his research team on a well-circumscript area: mother-child separation, because separation is a clear-cut event that either happens or does not. After two years of collecting data in hospitals, Robertson could not continue as an ‘uninvolved’ scientist. He felt compelled to do something for the children he had been observing, and he made the deeply moving film entitled ‘A two-year-old goes to hospital’ (Robertson and Bowlby 1952, Robertson 1953). In collaboration with Bowlby, the filming was carefully planned to ensure that no one could later be able to claim that it was biased. Bowlby and Robertson decided to use time-sampling, documented by the clock which was always in the picture, to prove that the film segments were not specially selected. Not only did this film play a crucial role in the development of ‘Attachment Theory’ but it also helped improve the fate of children in hospitals in Britain and many other parts of the world. In light of the research on separation then going on at the Tavistock Centre, he received and accepted a request made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to write a report on the fate of homeless children in post-war Europe. The World Health Organisation subsequently published it in 1951 under the title of Maternal Care and Mental Health. The task of writing the WHO report made Bowlby realise that the material he was gathering cried out for a theory that could explain the profound effects of separation and deprivation experiences on young children. At this point Bowlby was fortunate to meet Robert Hinde, under whose generous and stern guidance he set about trying to master the principles of ethology in the hope that they might help him gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the child's tie to the mother. In 1954, Robert Hinde began to attend regular seminars at the Tavistock Centre and later drew Bowlby's attention to Harlow's work with rhesus monkeys. However, the influence was not merely a one-way transaction. The contact with Bowlby was instrumental in Hinde’s decisions to mother-infant interaction and separation in rhesus monkeys that were reared in social groups. Bowlby's first formal statement of ‘Attachment Theory’, drawing heavily on ethological concepts, was presented in London in three now classic papers read to the British Psychoanalytic Society. The first, The Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother was presented in 1957 where he reviews the current psychoanalytic explanations for the child's libidinal tie to the mother (in short, the theories of secondary drive, primary object sucking, primary object clinging, and primary return to womb craving). This paper raised quite a storm at the Psychoanalytic Society. Anna Freud, who missed the meeting but read the paper, wrote: “Dr Bowlby is too valuable a person to get lost to psychoanalysis”. The next paper in the series Separation Anxiety was presented in 1959. In this paper, Bowlby pointed out that traditional theory fails to explain both the intense attachment to mother figures, and young children’s dramatic responses to separation. Robertson and Bowlby had identified three main phases of and for separation response:
1. Protest (related to separation anxiety)
2. Despair (related to grief and mourning)
3. Detachment or denial (related to defence)
All of which appeared to prove Bowlby's crucial point: separation anxiety is experienced when attachment behaviour is activated and cannot be terminated unless reunion is restored. Unlike other analysts, Bowlby advanced the view that excessive separation anxiety is usually caused by adverse family experiences, such as repeated threats of abandonment or rejections by parents, or to parent’s or siblings’ illnesses or death for which the child feels responsible. In the third major theoretical paper, Grief and Mourning in infancy and early childhood, read to the Psychoanalytic Society in 1959 (published in 1960), Bowlby questioned the then prevailing view that infantile narcissism is an obstacle to the experience of grief upon loss of a love object. He disputed Anna Freud’s contention that infants cannot mourn, because of insufficient ego development, and hence experience nothing more than brief bouts of separation anxiety provided a satisfactory substitute is available. He also questioned Melanie Klein’s claim that loss of the breast at weaning is the greatest loss in infancy. Instead, he advanced the view that grief and mourning appear whenever attachment behaviours are activated but the mother continues to be unavailable.
Attachment in Summary
A child has an innate (i.e. inborn) need to attach to one main attachment figure (i.e. monotropy). Although Bowlby did not rule out the possibility of other attachment figures for a child, he did believe that there should be a primary bond which was much more important than any other (usually the mother). Bowlby believes that this attachment is different in kind (qualitatively different) from any subsequent attachments. Bowlby argues that the relationship with the mother is somehow different altogether from other relationships. Essentially, Bowlby suggested that the nature of monotropy (attachment conceptualised as being a vital and close bond with just one attachment figure) meant that a failure to initiate, or a breakdown of, the maternal attachment would lead to serious negative consequences, possibly including affectionless psychopathy. Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. Psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a “…lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194). Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. According to Bowlby, attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child’s chances of survival. The central theme of attachment theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their infant’s needs establish a sense of security. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world. Bowlby’s theory of monotropy led to the formulation of his maternal deprivation hypothesis.
A child should receive the continuous care of this single most important attachment figure for approximately the first two years of life. Bowlby (1951) claimed that mothering is almost useless if delayed until after two and a half to three years and, for most children, if delayed till after 12 months, i.e. there is a critical period. If the attachment figure is broken or disrupted during the critical two year period the child will suffer irreversible long-term consequences of this maternal deprivation. Bowlby used the term maternal deprivation to refer to the separation or loss of the mother as well as failure to develop an attachment. The underlying assumption of Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis is that continual disruption of the attachment between infant and primary caregiver (i.e. mother) could result in long term cognitive, social, and emotional difficulties for that infant. The implications of this are vast – if this is true, should the primary caregiver leave their child in day care, whilst they continue to work? The long term consequences of maternal deprivation can include the following symptoms: delinquency, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, depression, affectionless psychopathy.
Affectionless psychopathy is an inability show affection or concern for others. Such of individuals act on impulse with little regard for the consequences of their actions. For example, subjects presenting no trace of guilt after an incident involving anti-social behaviour.
‘44 Juvenile Thieves’: A Case Study (Bowlby 1944)
John Bowlby believed that the relationship between the infant and its mother during the first five years of life was most crucial to socialisation. He believed that disruption of this primary relationship could lead to a higher incidence of juvenile delinquency, emotional difficulties and antisocial behaviour. To support his hypothesis, he studied 44 adolescent juvenile delinquents in a child guidance clinic.
Aim: To investigate the effects of maternal deprivation on people in order to see whether delinquents have suffered deprivation. According to the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis, breaking the maternal bond with the child during the early stages of its life is likely to have serious effects on its intellectual, social and emotional development.
Procedure: Bowlby interviewed 44 adolescents who were referred to a child protection program in London because of stealing- i.e. they were thieves. Bowlby selected another group of 44 children to act as ‘controls’. N.B: controls: individuals referred to clinic because of emotional problems, but not yet committed any crimes. He interviewed the parents from both groups to state whether their children had experienced separation during the critical period and for how long.
Findings: More than half of the juvenile thieves had been separated from their mothers for longer than six months during their first five years. In the control group only two had had such a separation. He also found several of the young thieves (32%) showed 'affectionless psychopathy' (they were not able to care about or feel affection for others). None of the control group were affectionless ‘psychopaths’. In a later paper, he reported that 60 children who had spent time apart from their mothers in a tuberculosis sanatorium before the age of 4 showed lower achievement in school.
Conclusion: Affectionless psychopaths show little concern for others and are unable to form relationships. Bowlby concluded that the reason for the anti-social behaviour and emotional problems in the first group was due to maternal deprivation. Evaluation: The supporting evidence that Bowlby (1944) provided was in the form of clinical interviews of, and retrospective data on, those who had and had not been separated from their primary caregiver. This meant that Bowlby was asking the participants to look back and recall separations. These memories may not be accurate. Bowlby designed and conducted the experiment himself. This may have lead to experimenter bias as it was Bowlby who was responsible for making the eventual diagnosis of “affectionless psychopathy.”
Categories of Attachment
During the 70s, researcher Mary Ainsworth further expanded upon Bowlby’s groundbreaking work in her now-famous ‘Strange Situation’ study. The study involved observing children between the ages of 12 to 18 months responding to a situation in which they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mother (Ainsworth, 1978). Based on these observations, Ainsworth famously concluded that there were three major styles of attachment: ‘secure attachment’ (70%), ‘ambivalent-insecure attachment’ (15%) and ‘avoidant-insecure attachment’ (15%). Numerous studies have supported Ainsworth’s conclusions and additional research has revealed that these early attachment styles can help predict behaviours later in life.
Strange Situation Procedure (Ainsworth & Bell 1970)
The security of attachment in one- to two-year-olds was investigated by Ainsworth and Bell (1970) in the 'strange situation' study, in order to determine the nature of attachment behaviours and types of attachment. Ainsworth (1970) developed an experimental procedure in order to observe the variety of attachment forms exhibited between caregivers and infants. The experiment is set up in a small room with one way glass so the behaviour of the infant can be observed. Infants were aged between 12 and 18 months. The sample comprised about 100 middle class American families. The procedure, known as the ‘Strange Situation’, was conducted by observing the behaviour of the caregiver and the infant in a series of seven 3-minute episodes, as follows:
(1) Parent and infant alone.
(2) Stranger joins parent and infant.
(3) Parent leaves infant and stranger alone.
(4) Parent returns and stranger leaves.
(5) Parent leaves; infant left completely alone.
(6) Stranger returns.
(7) Parent returns and stranger leaves.
Mary Ainsworth was particularly interested in observing the following aspects of the infant's behaviour: Separation anxiety, Stranger anxiety, Reaction when reunited with parent.
Strange Situation Conclusions
Ainsworth & Bell suggested that behaviour in the strange situation classification was determined by the behaviour of the primary carer. For example, securely attached infant are associated with sensitive & responsive primary care. Insecure Resistant attached infants are associated with inconsistent primary care. Sometimes the child’s needs and met and sometime they are ignored by the mother. Insecure Avoidant infants are associated with unresponsive primary care. The child comes to believe that communication of needs has no influence on the mother.
Evaluation of the Strange Situation
The strange situation classification has been found be have good reliability. This means that is achieves consistent results. For example, a study conducted in Germany found 78% of the children were classified in the same way at ages 1 and 6 years (Wartner et al. 1994). The strange situation classification has become the accepted methodology worldwide for measuring attachment (van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg 1988). Mary Ainsworth's conclusion that the strange situation can be used to identify the child's type of attachment has been criticised on the grounds that it identifies only the type of attachment to the mother. The child may have a different type of attachment to the father or grandmother for example (Lamb 1977). This means that is lacks validity, as it is not measuring a general attachment style, but instead an attachment style specific to the mother. In addition, some research has shown that the same child may show different attachment behaviours on different occasions. Children's attachments may change, perhaps because of changes in the child's circumstances, so a securely attached child may appear insecurely attached if the mother becomes ill or the family circumstances change. The strange situation has also been criticised on ethical grounds. Because the child is put under stress (separation and stranger anxiety), the study has broken the ethical guideline protection of participants. The sample is biased -100 middle class American families. Therefore, it is difficult to generalise the findings outside of America and to working class families. Finally, the observational study has been criticised for having low ecological validity because the child is placed in a strange and artificial environment, due to the procedure of the mother and stranger following a predetermined script.
- Secure attachment: Children who are securely attached do not experience significant distress when separated from caregivers. When frightened, these children will seek comfort from the parent or caregiver. Contact initiated by a parent is readily accepted by securely attached children and they greet the return of a parent with positive behaviour. While these children do not become exceptionally distressed by a parent’s absence, they clearly prefer parents to strangers.
- Ambivalent-insecure attachment: Children who are ambivalently attached tend to be extremely suspicious of strangers. These children display considerable distress when separated from a parent or caregiver, but do not seem reassured or comforted by the return of the parent. In some cases, the child might passively reject the parent by refusing comfort, or may openly display direct aggression toward the parent.
- Avoidant-insecure attachment: Children with avoidant attachment styles tend to avoid parents and caregivers. This avoidance often becomes especially pronounced after a period of absence. These children might not reject attention from a parent, but neither do they seek comfort or contact. Children with an avoidant attachment show no preference between a parent and a complete stranger.
Researchers Main and Solomon (1986) added a fourth attachment style known as ‘disorganized-insecure attachment’.
- Disorganized-insecure attachment: Children with a disorganized-insecure attachment style show a lack of clear attachment behaviour. Their actions and responses to caregivers are often a mix of behaviours, including avoidance or resistance. These children are described as displaying ‘dazed’ behaviour, sometimes seeming either confused or apprehensive in the presence of a caregiver.
Critique of Attachment Theory
Bowlby used the term maternal deprivation to refer to the separation or loss of the mother as well as failure to develop an attachment. Michael Rutter (1981) argued that if a child fails to develop an attachment this is privation, whereas deprivation refers to the loss of or damage to an attachment. In Rutter's view, deprivation occurs when the child's attachment is damaged or broken due to either separation from the attached figure, or loss of the attached figure, for instance through divorce or death. There may be short and long term effects of deprivation. We have considered the short term effects earlier, but Rutter views the reasons for the loss of an attachment as crucial in the explanation of long term effects. Rutter's (1976) evidence from his own research on the long term effects of early separation from mothers reveals the importance of the home environment and previous experiences. His sample comprised 9-12-year-old boys from London and from the Isle of Wight. He looked particularly at anti-social behaviour. His results indicated that:
- There was more anti-social behaviour in boys from families where the parents' marriage was rated as 'very poor' or where parent-child relationships were cold or neglectful;
- There was no difference in anti-social behaviour between boys who had separated from one parent and those who had separated from both parents;
- When a parent died, a child was only slightly more likely to become delinquent than a child from an 'intact' home;
- Boys who were separated because of illness or housing problems did not become maladjusted.
Rutter concluded that there was no correlation between separation experiences and delinquency. He argued that delinquency is not caused by disruption of the bond (as Bowlby claimed) because when disruption was final with the death of a parent, there was only a slight increase in delinquency. Rutter did find that there was a correlation between family discord and delinquency, suggesting that family discord (such as arguing, lack of affection, stress) created a distortion of family relationships. Rutter argued that this was not particularly related to early childhood, as Bowlby claimed. The distorted relationships may be linked to insecure attachments, perhaps even preventing the formation of attachments (privation). Rutter noted that the long term effects of deprivation showed:
- An increase in anti-social behaviour where the separation had been related to family discord or a history of disturbance in the life of the young person;
- Children with secure attachments and those who had experienced successful separations previously seemed to be able to withstand the effects of deprivation more than a child whose attachments were insecure;
- Children differ in their ability to cope with the effects of deprivation; boys appear to be more vulnerable to these effects than girls, as do children between seven months and three years of age.
Are the effects of maternal deprivation as dire as Bowlby suggested? For Rutter, (1972) in his book ‘Maternal Deprivation Re-assessed’, he suggested that Bowlby may have oversimplified the concept of maternal deprivation. For Rutter it was clear that Bowlby had used the term 'maternal deprivation' to refer to separation from an attached figure, loss of an attached figure and failure to develop an attachment to any figure. But each has different effects argued Rutter. In particular Rutter distinguished between privation and deprivation. Rutter (1981) went on to argue that if a child fails to develop an attachment this is privation, whereas deprivation refers to the loss of or damage to an attachment. Deprivation might be defined as losing something in which a person once had, whereas privation might be defined as never having something in the first place. Privation occurs when there is a failure to form an attachment to any individual, perhaps because the child has a series of different carers (which was the case for many of Bowlby's juvenile thieves) or family discord prevents the development of attachment to any figure (as Rutter proposed). Privated children do not show distress when separated from a familiar figure, which indicates a lack of attachment. From his survey of research on privation, Rutter proposed that it is likely to lead initially to clinging, dependent behaviour, attention-seeking and indiscriminate friendliness, then as the child matures, an inability to keep rules, form lasting relationships, or feel guilt. He also found evidence of anti-social behaviour, affectionless psychopathy, and disorders of language, intellectual development and physical growth. Rutter argues that these problems are not due solely to the lack of attachment to a mother figure, as Bowlby claimed, but to factors such as the lack of intellectual stimulation and social experiences which attachments normally provide. In addition, such problems can be overcome later in the child's development, with the right kind of care. Many of the 44 thieves in Bowlby’s study had been moved around a lot during childhood, and had probably never formed an attachment. This suggested that they were suffering from privation, rather than deprivation, which Rutter suggested was far more deleterious to the children. This finding led Hodges and Tizard (1989) toward a very important study on the long term effects of privation.
Hodges and Tizard (1989)
Aim: To investigate the effect of institutional upbringing on later attachments; to investigate the effects of privation on later social and emotional development; and, to investigate if the effects of privation can be reversed.
Procedure: Jill Hodges and Barbara Tizard (1989) followed the development of 65 children who had been in residential nurseries from only a few months old. This is known as a longitudinal study. The study was also a field experiment. The independent variable (what happened to the children at age 4) occurred naturally. The care provided was of good quality, but carers were discouraged from forming attachments with the children (i.e. privation occurred). By age 4, 24 children were adopted, 15 returned to their natural home (restored), and the rest stayed in institutions. They were also compared with a control group, who had spent all their lives in their own families. The control group was closely matched to the children in the experimental group. For example, in terms of sibling number, home location (London), parental occupation, position in family, age, sex etc. The children were assessed for social and emotional competence at four, eight and sixteen years old. The assessment comprised interviewing the children and their parents and teachers and a set of questionnaires.
Findings: At four years of age none of the institutionalised children had formed attachments, but by eight years of age those who were adopted had formed good attachments. Also their social and intellectual development was better than that of children returned to their own families. Those returned to their natural families (restored) showed more behavioural problems and the attachments were weaker. Nevertheless all those children who had spent their early years in institutions were more attention-seeking from adults and showed some difficulties in their social relationships, particularly with their peers. Some of these children were interviewed again at 16 years of age, as were their parents and care-workers. They were compared with a new control group as the original control children no longer matched the children in the adopted and restored groups. Hodges and Tizard found that the adopted children still had good attachments which compared favourably with the control children. Fewer restored children were reported as having good attachments but the children who had been brought up in institutional care had experienced most instability and showed some difficulties in their later attachments.
Conclusion: Hodges and Tizard concluded from this evidence that Bowlby was correct to emphasize the importance of the early years, but the effects of delay in the formation of attachments do not necessarily persist into adulthood and lead to affectionless psychopathy, as Bowlby predicted. Indeed, loving relationships and high quality care are necessary to reverse privation effects.
Evaluation: Hodges and Tizard used interviews and questionnaires, both of which can produce answers that are affected by social desirability - the wish to appear in a good light. The responses of those interviewed may have been inaccurate, and this would affect the results. Another difficulty in this research is that six of the original 51 families of eight-year-olds refused to take part in this later research. It could be that families experiencing more difficulties were more likely to refuse, and this may also apply to the comparison group, because the families who agreed to take part may have been those with fairly good relationships with their 16-year-olds. Thus, the results of the research may be biased due to the sample. Institutionalised children don’t just suffer emotional privation but also poor physical care such as bad diet and also lack of stimulation. As a result it is difficult to separate out the effects of privation and of physical care.
Reflections in Conclusion
The ethological and analytical origins of attachment theory have been brought by Bowlby into sharp focus. That is to say, attachment theory can now more clearly be seen as a theory of interpersonal relationships in the lineage of object relations theory whilst also incorporating the behavioural findings from ethology. Nonetheless, it may also be said that socialisation and attachment theories shed a new more rigorous perspective on the questions raised originally by the clinical analysis of Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott. Thus, the importance of Bowlby’s work cannot be overstated and suggests itself as ultimately stemming from a single abstract thought; a thought to describe an all-too common worldly phenomenon of loss; a thought first hypothesised by Freud many years before, only later to be empirically measured by Bowlby; that is, a thought concerning the reflex of anxiety or signal anxiety triggered, one might say, by the fear of the loss of love. Bowlby’s ideas have had a great influence on the way researchers and parents think about attachment and much of the discussion of his theory has focused on his firm belief in monotropic bonding. Although Bowlby does not dispute that young children form multiple attachments, he still contends that the attachment to the mother is unique in that it is the first to appear and remains the strongest attachment of all. However, on both of these counts, mounting evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
Schaffer & Emerson (1964) have noted that specific attachments started at about 8 months and, very shortly thereafter, the infants became attached to other people. By 18 months very few (13%) were attached to only one person; some had five or more attachments. Rutter (1981) points out that several indicators of attachment (such as protest or distress when attached person leaves) has been shown for a variety of attachment figures – fathers, siblings, peers and even inanimate objects. Critics such as Rutter have also accused Bowlby of not distinguishing between deprivation and privation – the complete lack of an attachment bond, rather than its loss. Rutter stresses that the quality of the attachment bond is the most important factor, rather than just deprivation in the critical period. Another criticism of the ‘44 Thieves Study’ is that it concluded that affectionless psychopathy was caused by maternal deprivation. The data correlation shows a modest relationship between these two variables. Indeed, other external variables (e.g. diet, parental income, education etc.) may also have affected the behaviour of the ‘44 thieves’, and not, as concluded, solely the disruption of the attachment bond. Bowlby's notion of ‘Maternal Deprivation’ is however supported Harlow's ethological research with monkeys. Harlow showed that monkeys reared in isolation from their mother suffered emotional and social problems in older age. The monkey's never formed an attachment (privation) and as such grew up to be aggressive and had problems interacting with other monkeys. There are implications arising from Bowlby’s work. As he believed the mother to be the most central care giver and, that this care should be given on a continuous basis, an obvious but somewhat naïve conclusion would be that mothers ought not to go out to work. Needless to say, there have been many attacks on this claim. Mothers are the exclusive carers in only a very small percentage of human societies; more often than not there are often a number of people involved in the care of children, such as relations and friends (Weisner & Gallimore 1977). In fact, Ijzendoorn & Tavecchio (1987) have argued that a stable network of adults can provide adequate care, and that this care may even have advantages over a system where a mother has to meet all of a child’s needs. There is also evidence (Schaffer 1990) that children develop better with a mother who is happy in her work, than a mother who is frustrated by staying at home.
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