Disruption of Attachment


Short-term separation - PDD Model - Robertson & Ro

Robertson & Robertson conducted a series of studies to inestigate effects of short-term separation on children in hospital

P = Protest

The child cries, screams and protests angrily when the parent leaves. They will try to cling on to the parent

D = Despair

The child's protesting begins to stop and appear calm but still upset. Rejects other people's comfort and seems withdrawn and uninterested in anything

D = Detachment

If separation continues child will engage with others again but will reject parent on return and display anger

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PDD Model - Example

John - in nursery for 9 days whilst mother having a baby

  • Father visited regularly and in first week John greets him enthusiastically
  • At first he behaves normally but soon changes
  • Makes determined efforts get attention from nurses but nurses always busy with other children and change shift regularly so no constant care
  • When is ignored, he seeks comfort from a teddy bear
  • Gradually breaks down (despair) - refuses food and drink, stops playing and cries a lot
  • By second week shows no enthusiasm to see father and sits quietly
  • When mother collects him, he screams and struggles to get away (detachment)
  • For months afterwards continues to have outbursts of anger towards her
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Short-term - Robertson & Robertson - Quality of Ca

Robertson & Robertson noticed quality of care in hospitals was not very good

Wanted to investigate if negative effects of separation could be reduced if infant was given good quality of care

Jane, Lucy, Thomas and Kate

The Robertsons fostered all four children under 3 years of age for up to 4 weeks whilst their mother's were in hospital

They attempted to keep routines similar and give a high level of substitute care

Father's visited regularly to maintain links with home and Kate visited mother in hospital which settled her

Showed some signs of distress but slept well and did not reject mothers on return

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R & R fostering - Evaluation

  • P - The Robertson's work has been highly influential
  • E - For example, children are now allowed to stay with their parents at all times whilst they're in hospital to maintain attachment and nurseries have stricter guidelines on quality of care
  • C - This shows the relevance of the research to the modern day
  • - A limitation is that the research used case studies
  • E - These limit the population validity of the research as the reactions seen in the case studies may not be the same for all children, just for those ones.
  • C - However, they gave an in-depth understanding and it had high ecological validity as the children were behaving naturally, uninfluenced by demand characteristics
  • - Working with children raises ethical issues
  • E - Children can't give informed consent as they're too young. This also means they're vulnerable to experimenter bias
  • C - However, relying on retrospective data is unreliable
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Long-term separation - Bowlby - 40 Juvenile Thieve

  • Aim - Bowlby wanted to provide evidence for theory that maternal deprivation in early years can lead to crime later
  • Procedure - Interviewed 44 juvenile thieves + their parents and conducted psychotherapy on them
  • Findings -
    • 32% were affectionless psychopaths + 20% were depressed. 30% of the control group were depressed
    • 86% of psychopaths had early separation + only 4% of control group
  • Conclusion - maternal deprivation causes severe, long-term and irreversable side effects
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