Search for an essay or resource:

Essay: The attachment theory and the impact of privation and deprivation

Essay details:

  • Subject area(s):
  • Reading time: 7 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: June 15, 2021*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 2,108 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 9 (approx)
  • The attachment theory and the impact of privation and deprivation
    0.0 rating based on 12,345 ratings
    Overall rating: 0 out of 5 based on 0 reviews.

Text preview of this essay:

This page of the essay has 2,108 words. Download the full version above.

The attachment theory and the impact of privation and deprivation

In psychology, the term attachment is used to describe a special kind of relationship also known as ‘affectional bond’ between two people. Since ‘affectional bond’ and ‘attachment’ refers to the internal state, psychologists have to look specific behaviour in order to infer its existence. According to Mary Ainsworth (1989), an affectional bond is a ‘relatively long-enduring tie in which the partner is important as a unique individual’ (Cardwell Clark Meldrum, Psychology AS.P.118). In this essay, I will focus on explaining and analysing the attachment theory in terms of nativist and empiricist debates using different theorists. Then, I will be explaining in depth Bowlby’s research and how child experiences and care affect behaviour in later development, and finally, evaluating studies into maternal privation and deprivation.


Learning theorists view that attachment is based on the principles of classical and operant conditioning. For learning theorists, every infant is born with reflex responses whereby the food, when given, plays the role of the stimulus and the pleasure that the infant gets from it after consumption, plays the role of the response. The primary caregiver (usually the mother) becomes associated with this feeling (pleasure) and systematically the conditioned stimulus. The food giver is therefore seen as the source of pleasure by the infant irrespective of whether the food is supplied or not. According to Dollard and Millard (1950), when hungry the infant feels uncomfortable and experience drive state which stimulates the baby to seek some way in order to lessen the discomfort of being hungry. The comfort found from the result in drive reduction. Reducing the drive is rewarding for the infant who associates the reward(primary) to the provider, mostly the mother (secondary). Ultimately, the infant becomes attached to the provider because the infant sees the provider as the source of reward.
However, according to Harlow and Harlow (1962), the attachment is not only based on the provision of food but also on contact comfort as seen on the behaviour of rhesus monkeys. The infant monkeys were placed in a cage with a two wired mesh cylinders and with a face. One was bare and provided milk to the baby monkey (lacteal mother) whilst the other one was covered with cloth providing (contact comfort). Harlow and Harlow (1962) have shown that providing food was not efficient for the formation of attachment as baby monkeys preferred the cloth-covered cylinder as a secure base. Though, the cloth covered did not give sufficient “love” to enable healthy psychological development because the monkeys developed some difficulties with mating and parenting. In another experiment, Harlow and Harlow (1962) demonstrated that affectional bond can not only occur between a caregiver and a child but also between infants.
Freud (1924) showed during his psychosexual stages that attachment between mothers and child is formed through the first stage (oral pleasure). Bowlby, also Freudian, (1969) proposed that attachment was essential for survival and suggested that infants physically dependants on an adult for protection, care and nourishment because they are born with an innate tendency to form an attachment in order to increase their chance of survival. For nativist, attachment comes from a reciprocal process whereby adults are also pre-programmed to form an attachment with an infant. Social releasers ensure that an attachment is formed between the infant and the caregiver such as crying, smiling, cooing. Bowlby also suggested that these behaviours are innate in infants as infant need one special relation (primary attachment) also referred as a monotropy. He added that, they also form secondary attachment also known as hierarchy essential or emotional development.
According to nativist, the attachment has a short term benefit such as food and safety; and long term benefit such as emotional relationships. This is a result of the internal working model observed in a non-human animal (imprinting). Lorenz (1952) studied the behaviour of geese and concluded that when the gosling’s eggs hatched, the goslings imprint on the first moving object they see in order to survive and reproduce. That is known as a critical period of time whereby it is important physically and psychologically for human and non-human to form an attachment.

Part 2 Critically evaluate Bowlby’s research in terms of how attachment affects childcare and later development.

as a psychoanalyst, Bowlby’s theory comes from a multitude of concept. believed that behavioural and mental health issues could be related back to a person early childhood development. He believes that small children are born with the need to form an attachment in order to survive which is seen through the needs of proximity which can be brought on by any condition that comes off as hunger, pain, treating, scary or insecure. These conditions are ensured through social releasers which stimulate the caregiver. Bowlby believed that the child would make one attachment that would set the course for a future relationship. He also believed that this attachment is so vital that disruption to this one attachment could create problems and consequences. Through his theory on attachment, Bowlby revolutionised the bond between the mother and the child, and disruption through separation, deprivation and bereavement with four main points. The first one is the innate instinctual need to attach to the main figure; one qualitative and unique relationship. He also stressed that if that main attachment fails to form, then there would be negative consequences and could possibly include affectionless psychopathy. His theory on monotropy had led to his hypothesis on maternal deprivation due to the problems formed with a lack of monotropy bond. The second is how important the main attachment figure during the critical stage of their life. Bowlby stated that mothering is nearly useless if an attachment is not formed with the maternal figure before the age of three. He also said that a child might suffer long-term problems; cognitive, social and emotional if the attachment figure is disrupted within the first two years and it might even continue up to the age of five. Bowlby basically means that any form of continuing disruption of attachment between the caregiver and the infant can end in long-term cognitive, social, and emotional problem for children. The third main point is that the long-term effect includes delinquency, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, depression and affectionless psychopathy; showing no guilt for their actions. The final point is that the infant relationship with their attachment leads to acquiring an internal working model (of the self as effective and valuable and others as being trustworthy).

However, Bowlby’s research ignored the complexity of human behaviour. Bowlby’s 44 juvenile thieves study could be biased as he knew participants very well as he had an intimate relationship with them and therefore could possibly give him the answers he is looking for. Bowlby’s monotropy is supported by Schaffer and Emerson’s study of 60 children in Glasgow. In contrast, Bowlby’s hierarchy of attachment was underestimated by Schaffer and Emerson when they found out that young children can equally make multiple attachments. Moreover, Michael Rutter (1981) stated that Bowlby confused ‘cause and effect’ and ‘association’. He suggested that family disaccord, due to poor living condition and unsettled personal relationship, was key to later maladjustment and not early separation. Rutter (1976) contradicted Bowlby’s research after some institutionalised orphan could still manage to form an attachment beyond the first age and also added that Bowlby did not distinguish different types of deprivation.
However, Ainsworth backed up Bowlby’s theory with the strange situation test. There is more benefit to helping the child cognitively and socially as shown in a study by Sylvia et al (2003). 3000 diverse pre-school children were studied and compared with the ‘home’ stay children. The study found that pre-school children were cognitively and socially more developed (peer sociability). Despite the recommendations of the study, some argued that the findings are not widespread yet as a quarter of the families are struggling to find a childcare place. Sroufe et al (1999) supported Bowlby’s views of continuity, during their longitudinal study in Minnesota, when they found out that securely children in infancy were more popular, more confident to explore the world and social competent later in life. Field (1991) examined time spent by an amount of children in day care and concluded that daycare is vital for children’s social and emotional development.

An initial study undertaken by Bowlby during the second war world is commonly known as the study of 44 juvenile thieves investigate the effect of maternal deprivation on juvenile delinquency; breaking a mother’s bond with the child during early years.
Bowlby’s study of 44 juvenile thieves involved a pre-selected sample from his own clinic and used retrospective evidence which could be influenced by distorted memories. Instead of considering any numbers of confounding factors such as the reason for the separation in the first place. He saw a correlation (link) and assumed a causation despite the fact that 27 of the 44 of juvenile thieves have not suffered from maternal deprivation. Additionally, it is not clear whether these children experienced deprivation or whether they had good substitute emotional care during the separations. Also, the frequency may not have been accurately estimated.
Part 3 Evaluate studies into maternal privation and deprivation
Maternal privation is the complete lack of emotional care during the first years of life. This is the case of Genie. Genie was a girl, found at the age of 13, suffering from isolation and severe neglect. According to Curtiss (1977) on discovery, she was unsocialized, primitive and hardly human. Despite being placed later with a foster family, Genie never recovered from her maladjustment socially and linguistically. The reason why genie was less resilient compared to other children who suffered from early privation like the Czech twins could be due to the length of time in isolation. As we know Genie was 13 and could be beyond the recovery age. It could similarly be due to some unique characteristics of the individual as her father locked her up or to subsequent care – as there is a huge uncertainty concerning the quality of foster care she received later on. What Genie has endured cannot be verified as the cause of her lack of development but could be due to innate backwardness. In this study, it is hard to distinguish emotional from physical deprivation. a collected was retrospective. Generalisation regarding human behaviour on an individual basis cannot be possible. Samples were small.
However, maternal deprivation is the loss of emotional care which result in the breaking of emotional bonds. To support his maternal deprivation hypothesis, Bowlby (1944) studied 44 children juvenile delinquent inside a child guidance clinic and another 44 who were acting as a control in order to investigate the long-term effect of maternal separation. These children were selected from his own clinic and categorised into two different group; one who experienced some form of emotional problems and another group who were stealing. Psychologist and social workers both assess their present emotional attitude as well as their past life. Children and their mother both were both initially interviewed by Bowlby. Bowlby found out that the majority of juvenile thieves had experienced separation for more than six months during the critical period whereas in the controlled group only two experienced long-term separations. The findings supported Bowlby’s hypothesis that was a maternal separation in early life caused permanent emotional damage. In his study, Bowlby used clinical interviews and retrospective data regarding separation from their primary caregiver. The answers given may not be accurate when participants were recalling separations. Bowlby conducted the experiment himself and that may lead to experimenter bias. Furthermore, the study was predisposed to researcher bias. As we are aware, Bowlby conducted the assessment himself and concluded the diagnoses of affectionless psychopathy. Bowlby clearly knew whether the children were in the control group or theft group. Therefore, his results may have influenced by his own expectations which may undermine their validity.

Although many psychologists tried to undermine the evolutionary theory, Bowlby’s theory of attachment generate an important deal of research, has a huge impact on the care of young children and stays the most influential. However, his maternal deprivation hypothesis developed in the 1950s focuses more on the benefit of attachment rather than the consequences of deprivation. Overall, irreversibility in early privation appears to be not certain, but generally, children can recover if the right set of time were given whereas research on deprivation showed reasonable recovery when good substitute of emotional care was provided.

About Essay Sauce

Essay Sauce is the free student essay website for college and university students. We've got thousands of real essay examples for you to use as inspiration for your own work, all free to access and download.

...(download the rest of the essay above)

About this essay:

If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay Sauce, The attachment theory and the impact of privation and deprivation. Available from:<> [Accessed 02-12-21].

These have been submitted to us by students in order to help you with your studies.

* This essay may have been previously published on at an earlier date.

Review this essay:

Please note that the above text is only a preview of this essay.

Review Content

Latest reviews: