Failure to form attachment (privation)

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Children in institutional care are likely to experience privation.

Privation: the lack of having any attachments due to the failure to develop such attachments during early life

Key study: Hodges and Tizard (1989)

Aim: To study the effects of institutionalisation

Method: followed a group of 65 British children from early life to adolescence. The children had been placed in an institure when they were less than 4 months old so had not yet formed attachments. Caretakers were not allowed to form attachments with they children.

Findings:  A study of the children found 70% were described as 'not being able to care deeply about anyone'. Some children had remained in the institute but most had left it, and had either been adopted or restored to their original families. 'restored' children were less likely to form attachments with their mothers, but adopted children were closely attached to their parents. But groups that had left the institute had problems with peers and were less likely to have a special friend. They were also more quarrelsome and more likely to be bullies and sought more attention from adults (disinhibited attachment)

Conclusions: theses findings suggest that early privation had a negative effect on the ability to form relationships. This supports Bowlby's view that the failure to form attachments during the sensitive period has an irreversible effect on emotional development.

Romanian orphanages

Rutter et al (2007)

Method: 100 Romanian orphans were assessed at 4, 6 and 11.

Findings: children adopted by British families before 6 months showed normal emotional development. But many Romanian orphans adopted after 6 months showed disinhibited attachments and had problems with peers.

Conclusions: this suggests that long-term consequences may be less severe than thought but only if children have the oppurtunity to form attachments. But if children do not form attachments then the consequences are likely to be severe.

Attachment disorder

This is when some children experience disruptions of early attachment and this affects their social and emotional development. Children with attachment disorder have:

  • no preffered attachment figure
  • an inability to interact and relate to others before the age of 5
  • experience of severe neglect or frequent change of caregiver

There are two kinds of attachment disorder:

  • inhibited: shy and withdrawn…


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