Disruption of Attachment, Privation and the effects of institutionalism

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Outline research into the effects of disruption of attachment (12 marks)

Disruption of attachment can mean short term or long term separation/deprivation. Research into short term separation is the PDD model by Robertson and Robertson. They observed children in hospital using a time sampling video technique. They wanted to find out the effects of short term separation on the infants. An experience of one of the children, John who was put into residential nursery while his mother was in hospital. When John was first put into care he didn’t like it and cried, then John wouldn’t sleep and refused food. Near the end he ignored his father when he visited and became emotionally detached. Robertson and Robertson found that during separation children were extremely distressed, and on their return home, were less attached and less affectionate. They then came to the conclusion of short term bond disruption in three stages called the PDD model. This was protest which the infant begins to show e.g. crying, screaming and clinging to mother. Then despair like John displayed where there is little response to comfort and more apathetic behaviour. Finally the last is detachment where the infant rejects the caregiver on their return and is angry.  However this study could be criticised because the sample was very small and the findings cannot therefore be generalised. This means that it is not a representative sample. To overcome this however, a larger sample could be used so then we can generalise this and draw better conclusions. Although this study may lack reliability they used content analysis where they collected both qualitative and quantitative data.

The Robertson’s work showed that short term separation is not always bad for the child but other research such as Bowlby’s has showed that longer term separation has harmful and irreversible effects. Bowlby’s study of 44 Juvenile thieves was done to find out the effect of long term separation which is also known as deprivation. He studied 44 adolescents who had been referred to the clinic because they were stealing and they were compared to the control group of 44 ‘emotionally disturbed’ adolescents who didn’t steal. Bowlby found that 17 of the thieves had experienced separations from their mothers before the age of 2, compared with 2 in the control group. 14 of the thieves were diagnosed as ‘affectionless psychopaths’ and 12 of which had separation from their mothers. Bowlby drew the conclusion that maternal deprivation has serious and long lasting effects. There is a correlation between deprivation and being an ‘affectionless psychopath’. Bowlby then developed the maternal deprivation hypothesis – long term separation can cause irreversible effects of taking away an attachment that has already happened. However, there is a severe lack of evidence to support this theory, furthermore Bowlby failed to distinguish between privation and deprivation. Privation is never forming an attachment but deprivation is losing an attachment you previously had. Research shows that privation may be reversible but Bowlby does not consider this. On the other hand


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