Bowlby's study of forty juvenile thieves (1944)

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  • Bowlby's study of forty juvenile thieves (1944)
    • Aim
      • To study teenage criminals with affectionless psychopathy, to see if they are more likely to have had an early separation than those that did not display signs of affectionless psychopathy
      • Bowlby believed that there would be a relationship based on the belief that prolonged seperation from the primary caregiver would have a negative impact on social, behavioural, emotional and intellectual development
    • Procedure
      • Sample group consisted of 44 teenagers who were referred to the child guidance clinic in London, where Bowlby worked who had been involved in steeling
      • The sample lived with their biological parents
      • Assesment were done on each child as they went to the clinic.
      • A psychologist would asses their intelligence by mental tests and then made an assessment of the child emotional attitude towards the test.
      • A social worker took a preliminary psychiatric history
      • After receiving the reports from the psychologists and sociologists, Bowlby, as the psychiatrist, interviewed the children and mother separately
      • He believed that there were three types of delinquent: Those who had been unstable for years, those who had sudden shock as bereavement, and those who had behaved in an unusual manner.
      • Bowlby diagnosed affectionless psychopathy where there was a lack of affection to others, or a lack of guilt or shame at their actions, and empathy for their victims
      • The families were interviewed to establish whether the thieve had had prolonged early separation for their primary care giver in their first two years of life.
      • Bowlby then matched those who had been classified as affectionless psychopaths with those who had experienced prolonged maternal deprivation in the first two years.
      • Control group of 44 non- delinquent young people was established in order to see how commonly maternal deprivation occurred in the non delinquent population
      • This group consisted of individuals who had been referred to the same clinic for emotional problems, not for committing crimes.
      • Parents of this control group were similarly interviewed regarding separation periods in early life
      • Main sample 31 boys were studied and 13 girls and in the control group 34 boys and 10 girls were studied.
    • Findings
      • of the 14 children from the main group identified as affectionless psychopaths, 12 had experienced prolonged separation for more than six months from their mothers in their first two years of life
      • only 5 of the 30 delinquent children not classified as affectionless psychopaths had experiences seperations
      • Of the 44 people in the non- delinquent control group, only 2 had experienced prolonged separations and none of them were affectionless psychopaths
    • Conclusion
      • The young criminals who had a prolonged separation in their first two years of life were several times more likely to exhibit affectionless psychopathy than those who had a such separation.
      • This provides strong support for Bowlby's deprivation hypothesis
    • Evaluation
      • Strengths
        • The case study gathered a lot of detail, both qualitative and quantitive, from multiple sources using different research methods, so the data was in- depth, rich and valid
        • The control group of the same size from the same clinic matched to the juvenile thieves was used so that the findings of the thieving group could be compared to those of the control group, enabling Bowlby to conclude that the affectionless psychopathic character could be linked to stealing, as 14 of the thieves were classified as affectionless psychopaths, against none of the control group
      • Weaknesses
        • It has been suggested by Bowlby himself that the findings would be improved had a second control group, compramising 'normal' school children were used, as the control group from the study was made from other teenagers from the clinic who had their own emotional problems
        • Bowlby investigated IQ, emotional state,age and experiences with the mother, but there are other important factors in a child's development which perhaps should have been looked into, such as the relationship with the father and school experiences


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