We have now considered in some detail the way in which infants develop strong attachment bonds towards the end of the first year of life. Bowlby believes that it is essential for infants and young children to experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with their mother or permanent mother substitute. What outcomes, then, can we expect if the child suffers some interruption in this relationship? This may be temporarily, for example as a result of hospitalisation or being placed in the care of the Local Authority on either a short of long term basis, or even a permanent interruption as a result of the death of the main attachment figure. Bowlby even considered that children whose mothers returned to work suffered a type of partial separation. If you consider that between 1950 and 1954 28% of women returned to work before their children were aged 5 years whereas between 1975 and 1979 this figure was 58% you can see that this is certainly an important issue which psychologists must address.
The term maternal deprivation has been used to describe a whole range of situations in which the infant is deprived of his relationship with his mother. Bowlby was the first to present firm research into the adverse effects of early deprivation of maternal care when he reported to the World Health Organisation in 1951. The World Health Organisation stated that the use of day nurseries inevitably caused, permanent damage to the emotional health of a future generation. They felt that women going to work with children aged under three, or even five years put them at serious risk.
Before we look at the issue of maternal deprivation in more detail we should consider the circumstances that children were faced with in 1951 when they were placed in care:.
-Orphanages and residential nurseries were grossly understaffed.
- Care was dominated by hygiene and not psychological need.