Bowlby believed that the reason a child would develop anti-social behaviour may be related to the attachment it had made with its main carer. He did a study on forty-four patients at the north London clinic where he worked. All of the patients were emotionally disturbed and had been thieves. He noted that seventeen of them had been separated from their mothers for six months or more before they reached five years of age; this he felt was the reason for their anti-social behaviour. He also did a study on forty-four disturbed children in London; these children were not known to be thieves.
Bowlby found that only two of the second group of children had been separated from their mothers. From this study Bowlby concluded that maternal deprivation contributes to delinquency. Bowlby seems to have overlooked several factors which may have had an effect on the child’s life. For instance, if the child was never attached to it’s mother it may not have been upset when she left it for six months. If the mother was removed because she was unfit it might not be the separation, which had caused the child to be a delinquent. He does not mention if the children were brought up in a specific area, which may have had bad influences on them.
Many children are separated from their mother, but not all become delinquents; as Bowlby only studied thieves he could not say if other children who had suffered the loss of their mothers would become delinquents. Bowlby’s finding, are disputed by the findings of Michael Rutter, who did a study on a group of nine to twelve year olds who lived on the Isle of Man, and a group of children from London. Rutter was trying to find out what was the cause of anti-social behaviour. He was looking to see if the separation of a child from it’s parents had any influence.
Rutter could not find a connection, however he did find a connection between how much stress a child has in early childhood and it’s behaviour. Rutter found that if a child came from a poor home where the parents fight all the time, the child is more likely to get in trouble with the police and become a delinquent in later life. Evidence shows that poor attachment can have a detrimental effect on children, but is seems the effects of poor attachment it seems can be improved, if attachment can be promoted at a later stage in the child’s life.
This is shown in the study carried out by Jarmila Koluchova in 1972. Koluchova reported on the case of identical twins from Czechoslovakia who had suffered the most severe deprivation. The mother of the boys had died and the father could not look after them. He put them in a children’s home until he remarried when they were eighteen months old, the boys returned to live with their father and his new wife. The father had to work away from home quite a lot and so the boys were left to be looked after by their stepmother.
Although she had four children of her own, she had no interest in the welfare of the twins; she was an extremely cruel women who would beat the children and lock then in their room or in the cellar for long periods of time, they were also very poorly fed. The twins lived like this until they were discovered when they were five and a half years old; they were severely physically and mentally retarded. They were covered in scars, had rickets and so could not stand straight, walk or run; their coordination was also very poor. They had not been taught to speak, were afraid of strangers and also scared of the dark.
When tested they were found to have an IQ of about forty and their stage of development was that of a three year old. The boys spent a short time in hospital and then in a special school for mentally disadvantaged children. They were later fostered by a very experienced, kind and loving woman and who lived with her sister. The atmosphere at this new home was warm and friendly. By the time the children reached eleven years old their speech was normal for their age, they could read and write and play the piano. By the age of fifteen their IQ was average for their age and their emotional state had improved greatly.
The twins were last reported on in 1991, it was found that they had made a full recovery from their early life experiences. This study shows that it is possible to overcome deprivation if the right care is offered in later life. However the report does not say whether the twin boys from Czechoslovakia were ever in trouble with the police at any time after they had reached their teens. By the time Koluchova made his final report in 1991 the twins would have been thirty-one years old. The report does not mention if they had formed good relationships.
According to the studies carried out by Bowlby, the deprivation which the twins had suffered would mean that they were unable to form close relationships in their adult life. These studies show that it is in important for a child to form an attachment to someone for the child to grow into a stable adult, but it is also important that the home in which the child lives is stable and happy. Several psychologists have worked in the field of child development and investigated the need for early attachment. Not all have come to the same conclusion; there are still lots of questions unanswered.
Many of the early findings in the field of child development have now been disputed. The work done by Bowlby and many other psychologists have brought about important changes in the way we view childcare, for instance mothers or carers are now allowed to stay with their a sick child in hospitals. Families with difficulties are given support in their own home wherever possible. Bowlby claimed that ‘a bad home is better than the best institution’; If a child must be removed from its home, it is placed with a foster family rather than in a children’s homes if at all possible.