Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Theory

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Bowlby believed that a child has an innate need to attach to one main figure. The idea of this need for a single and exclusive bond became known as monotropy theory. Although Bowlby did not exclude the possibility of other attachments for a child, he did believe there should be a primary bond which was much more important than any other. He believed that a child should receive continuous care of this single most important attachment figure for approximately the first two years of life. This was referred to as the critical period. If this attachment is broken or disrupted during this period the child was said to suffer irreversible long term consequences. This maternal deprivation would lead to delinquency, affectionless psychopathy and intellectual retardation. Affectionless psychopathy is an inability to empathise with other people. Evidence for this comes from Bowlby’s forty four thieves study. He interviewed forty four juvenile thieves, asking them about themselves, their behaviour and family history, including whether the boys had been separated from their families in early childhood. There was also a control group of non-delinquent young people was used as a baseline for comparison. The results showed that fourteen of the boys were identified as affectionless psychopaths, and of these twelve had been separated from their mothers for a long period of time in the first two years of their life. Only five of the delinquents who were not suffering affectionless psychopathy had been similarly separated from their mothers, and only two of the control group had been separated for any prolonged period. Bowlby concluded that delinquency is linked to childhood maternal deprivation, since the delinquents were more likely than the average population to have a deprivation experience in childhood. However there are problems with this research, for example, interviews are

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