Failure to form attachment (privation)

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  • Created by: Andreia
  • Created on: 20-05-13 14:25

Failure to form attachment (privation)

Hodges and Tizard (1989)

  • Followed 65 British children from early life to adolescence, who were placed in institutional care when they were less than four months old - had formed no attachments at this age yet. 
  • Explicit policy in the institution against the caretakers forming attachments with the children.
  • Children - 70% described as not able to care deeply about anyone. 
  • Able to conclude that the children had experienced early privation.
  • Children were assessed at regular intervals until the age of 16 - some children had remained in the institution, but most had left, either adopted or restored with original families.
  • The restored group were less likely to form attachments with their mothers but the adopted children were as closely attached to their parents as the control group of 'normal' children.
  • However, both groups of ex-institutional children had problems with their peers. They were less likely to have a special friend and less likely to be liked by other children. 
  • They were also more violent and more likely to be bullies and also seeked more attention from adults - a sign of disinhibited attachment. 

These findings suggest that early privation had a negative effect on the ability to form relationships even when given good substitute emotional care.

This supports the view that failure to form attachments during the sensitive period has an irreversible effect on emotional development (Bowlby, 1969).

The children coped well at home with the other person working hard on their behalf but this was not the same for peer relations. 

Romanian Orphanages

Rutter et al. (2007)

  • Studied a group of 100 Romanian orphans and assessed the children at the ages of 4, 6 and 11 years old.
  • The children who were adopted by British families before the age of six months have shown 'normal' emotional developments when compared to UK children adopted at the same age.
  • Romanian orphans adopted after six months showed disinhibited attachments and problems with peers. 
  • This suggests that long-term consequences may be less severe than first thought if the children have an opportunity to form attachments - consequences are likely to be severe if failure to form attachment continues.


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