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Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment and Delinquency

Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment and Delinquency

  • Ethology – Observation of animal studies, he was influence by Timbergen and Lorenz
  • Imprinting – Form of learning observed in some animals after birth, results in attachment to a parent.
    • LORENZ – Goslings follow a human once they had hatched – short term response designed for bird’s safety.
  • Imprinting must occur during the first two years – critical period.

“Mother love in infancy is just as important for a child’s mental health, as vitamins and minerals are for physical health”

Essential for mental health: warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment.

  • Proximity Seeking – Child has instinctual needs to be close to the mother

Main points of his theory:

  • Requirement of ONE single and exclusive bond – monotropy theory. Though, other attachments are possible, but not as intimate as the primary bond, usually with the mother.
  • Child should receive continuous care of the single attachment for the first two years (critical period). If attachment is broken during this time, the child will suffer irreversible long-term consequences of maternal deprivation.
  • Attachment formed with person most sensitive to social releasers
  • Consequences of maternal deprivation:
    • Delinquency – problematic behaviour, criminal acts
    • Affectionless psychopathy – inability to empathise with other people, lack of feeling for other
    • Intellectual retardation – below average intellectual functioning

Experiment: BOWLBY
Aim: Causes of delinquency
Method: Interviewed 44 juvenile thieves, asking about their behaviour and childhood experiences. Members of their families were also interviewed about their behaviour, family history and any family separation in childhood. A non-delinquent group was used as a control group.
Results: 14 individuals as affectionless psychopaths – 12 had been separated from their mothers during the critical period.
Conclusion: Maternal deprivation linked with delinquency. Data collected might have been invalid – interviewees might not have been able to recall such information or they might have lied.

Evaluation

  • Made mothers think about their own children and their care
  • Bowlby changed at least a generation of how children were raised
  • Better to be brought up by a bad mother, than institution
  • Hospitals changed: mothers encouraged to stay with their children

Alternative Views on Attachment
Monotropy – Criticised by SCHAFFER and EMERSON – Children develop more than one strong attachment, and that theattachment doesn’t have to be the mother, but to those who are most responsive to the child’s needs.

Experiment: SHAFFER AND EMERSON
Aim:
Investigate the number of attachment relationships infants have
Method: Longitudinal study of Scottish infants through their first 18 months, infants were observed and mothers interviewed about child’s responses to separation.
Results: By 18 months, infants formed more than one attachment figure, max of 5. Mother commonly selected as the primary attachment figure, 75% also said father.
Conclusion: Babies don’t usually demonstrate monotropy and usual for child to have several attachment figures. (LAMB – how babies attach simultaneously)

Evaluation

  • Consistent cross-culturally
  • Zaire groups have 14 carers within the groups; this has no damaging effects on the child, but brings many benefits instead.

Critical Period for Attachment

  • HODGES AND TIZARD: Children adopted as late as 7 could establish strong affectional relationships with adopted parents
  • CLARKE: Deprivation very damaging, children have spirit, which allows them to cope with difficult circumstances

Delinquency
RUTTER

  • No cause and effect for delinquency
  • Other factors need to be considered: reason for separation and way separation is handled
  • Suggested Bowlby confused ‘deprivation’  and ‘privation’
    • Deprivation: child has emotionally satisfactory relationship taken away/broken
    • Privation: never having an emotional bond in the first place
  • Privation main cause of delinquency

Study – RUTTER:

  • Study on children on the Isle of Wight, using a rating scale to measure disturbed behaviour
  • Parents/teachers asked to asses a child’s character/behaviour by agreeing/disagree with statements
  • 6% of 10/11 year olds: substantial emotional/behaviour problems
  • Children experienced stresses:
    • Death of a close relative
    • Overcrowding
    • Psychiatric illness in parents
  • Conclusion: Maternal deprivation on its own not sufficient explanation for delinquency. Well handled separations with substitute carer resulted in less chance of delinquency.
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