Effects of institutionalisation

HideShow resource information

Privation and Deprivation

Rutter criticised Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis, saying that Bowlby was confused with the term 'deprivation'. He used it to refer to several things - seperations from the mother, loss of the mother and failure to develop an attachment with the mother. These things are now:

Privation: where a child has never had an attachment to its mother or caregiver.

Deprivation: where an attachment was once formed but is now broken.

1 of 8

Case study of Privation

Rutter (1981) claimed that the effects of maternal privation are more likely to be serious than the effects of maternal deprivation. Evidence for this comes from case studies of children who have suffered through difficult conditions or cruel treatment 

Curtiss (1977) - The case of Genie

This reported the case of a girl who suffered extreme cruelty from her parents, and never formed any attachments. Her father kept her strapped to a high chair with a potty in the seat for most of her childhood. She was beaten if she made any sounds, and didn't have the chance to play with toys or with ther children.

She was finally discovered when she was 13 years old. She was physically underdeveloped and could only speak with animal-like sounds. After a lot of help she later learned some language, but her social and intelletual skills never seemed to fully develop.

2 of 8

Romanian orphan studies

The fall of the communist regime in Romania during the earl 1990s allowed the world to see the vast overcrowding in their orpanages. The orphans were fed, clothed and looked after, but they lacked  any form of emotional care or any opportunity to form an emotional attachment.

Since then, various studies of Romanian orphans have enabled psychologists to look directly at the impacts of privation.

Studies of children raised in institutions may provde more reliable data than case studies, as sample sizes are larger.

3 of 8

Rutter et al (2007)

Rutter et al conducted a congitudinal study of Romanian orphans


  • 111 Romania orphans who were adopted by British citizens were compared with a group of 52 UK adoptees and followed over a prolonged period. 
  • Some of the orphans were adopted before they were 6 months old and some were older than 6 months.
  • Each child was assessed at ages 4, 6 and 11.


  • Children younger than 6 months had the same level of emotional development as other UK children who were adopted at the same age.
  • Romanian children older than 6 months showed signs of insecure attachments and social problems.
  • UK children older than 6 months didn't show these problems. 
4 of 8

Rutter et al (2007)


  • Effects of long term privation can be reversed if an attachment starts to form before 6 months.
  • Long-term effects are more permanent if attachment isn't made within 6 months.
  • Maternal deprivation on its own doesn't cause permanent effects because the UK adopted children had been seperated but didn't show any problems.


  • Results with the older children may be due to a lack of any stiulation in the orphanage.
  • As a longitudinal study, Rutter was able to investigate the children over a long period of time, meaning the results provide a better insight into the long-term effects of privation.
  • They collected qualitative dats which, although detailed, is more difficult to create generalised laws or theories from.
5 of 8

Hodges and Tizard (1989)


  • Longitudinal study of 65 children who had been placed in a residential nursery before 4 months of age.
  • They hadn't had the opportunity to form close attachments with any of their caregivers.
  • By the age of 4, some of the children had returned to their birth mothers, some had been adopted, and some stayed on at the nursery.


  • At 16 years old, the adopted group had strong family relationships, although compared to a control group of children from a normal home environment, they had weaker peer relationships.
  • They who stayed in the nursery or who had returned to their mother showed poorer relationships with family and peers than those who'd been adopted.
6 of 8

Hodges and Tizard (1989)


  • Children can recover from early maternal privation if they are in a good quality, loving environment, although their social development may not be as good as other children who have never suffered privation.


  • Natural experiment, had high ecological validity.
  • Sample was small and more than 20 of the children couldn't be found at the end of the study - hard to generalise results.
  • Because lots of institutionalised children are often undefed and malnourished, with a lack of stimulation, it could be these factors that influence their behaviour, rather than the lack of attachment itself.
7 of 8

Long-term effects of institutionalisation

Affectionless pyschopathy (44 juvinile thieves study)

Anaclitic depression - apetite loss, sleeplessness and impared social and intellectial development

Deprivation dwarfism - infants are physically underdeveloped due to emotional deprivation

Delinquency - minor crimes commited by youths

Reduced intellegence - don't develop intellectually as fast as their peers.

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Attachment resources »