Bowlby studied institutional care and its effects in the 1930s and 1940s. He studied children being brought up in orphanages and residential nurseries which lacked maternal care. Bowlby believed that the relationship between child and mother during the first 5 years of a child’s life, is at its most crucial to socialisation for which he called the critical period. He claimed that if no attachment was formed (privation) or there was a disruption between the attachment (deprivation) during this time, it would lead to anti social behaviour, emotional difficulties and juvenile delinquency.
He claimed if privation had occurred the infant would never be able to form later attachments in life. One of Bowlby’s experiments to support his maternal deprivation hypothesis, he carried out a study called The 44 Thieves The conclusion of the above study was that the findings suggested a link between early separations and later, social and emotional maladjustment. Also, in extreme maternal deprivation, it almost seems to lead to affectionless psychopathy, or to at least some kind of anti social behaviour.
Even though Bowlby’s findings did support the maternal deprivation hypothesis I feel that experimental bias could have also influenced Bowlby’s findings. The experiment was designed and conducted by himself and also, Bowlby used supporting evidence such as clinical interviews where he asked PS to look back and recall separations, these memories in deed may not have been recalled correctly. Also, institutional care at the time research took place, lacked appropriate stimulation.
This could have had a great effect with the child’s intellectual level later on in life. Bowlby argued that infants form a special attachment with their mother, any other attachment formed with other persons are very different. He claimed that even fathers are not of any direct emotional importance to the infant, and that their main role was to provide support both financially and emotionally to the mother. He called the process of this special attachment monotropy.
However, Schaffer & Emerson (1964) argued Bowlby’s claim. They carried out research, visiting babies monthly during their first year then again at 18 months measuring separation upset. They found that though most infants were attached to the mother, a third had formed attachments with the father. Rutter (1981) also challenged Bowlby’s research. He studied 2000 boys between the ages of 9 – 12 who had all suffered separation for sometime from their mothers during early childhood.
His findings was that the majority of the PS did not become delinquents. However, those who did become delinquents, the separation usually involved stressful factors such as the parents being in prison, mental health problems were present and generally unhappy backgrounds. Rutter concluded that it was the problems that follow the separation are that of cause of the problem, and not the separation itself.