Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation

  • AO1:
  • Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation:
  • Continuous emotional (maternal) care from a mother of mother-substitute is necessary for normal emotional and intellectual development. Bowlby believed that mother-love in infancy is 'as important for mental health as vitamns and proteins are for physical health'. 
  • Separation means the child not being physically in the presensce of the primary attachment figure. Deprivation means losing emotional care as a result of the separation. Deprivation can be avoided if alternative emotional care is offered, thus separation doesn't always cause deprivation. 
  • Critical period:
  • If a child is separated from their mother (without substitute emotional care) for an extended time during the first 30 months, then psychological damage is inevitable. 
  • If a child is deprived of maternal care for too long during the critical period they will suffer mental retardation and abnormally low IQ. Goldfarb found lower Iqs in children from institutions compared to fostered children. 
  • Lack of emotional care may also lead to affectionless psychopathy - the inability to experience guilt or strong emotion for others. This prevents the person from developing normal relationships and is associated with criminality. 
  • Key study: Bowlby's 44 thieves:
  • Procedure - The sample in this study ws 44 delinquent teenagers accused of stealing. Families were also interviewed to establish any prolonged separations from mothers. All 'thieve' were interviewed for signs of affectionless psychopathy: characterised by a lack of affection,


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