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1. Child Psychology: Key Studies 2009 The 44 Thieves (Bowlby,1944) Support for maternal deprivation hypothesis Aim and hypotheses Aim: To provide evidence to support the…
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  • 1. Child Psychology: Key Studies 2009 The 44 Thieves (Bowlby,1944) Support for maternal deprivation hypothesis Aim and hypotheses Aim: To provide evidence to support the maternal deprivation hypothesis in a sample of children attending the Tavistock child-guidance clinic. Hypothesis: The sample of juvenile thieves will have experienced more early and prolonged separations from their mothers within the first five years of life than a matched control group of children with emotional difficulties who have not committed any crimes. Method Design: • retrospective study comparing experiences of prolonged separation from the mother (under the age of 5) in a group of 44 thieves and a matched group of 44 emotionally disturbed youngsters who had committed no crimes Sample: • the 44 thieves attending Tavistock Clinic had been referred in a number of ways: 22 by their schools, 2 by schools but a patents request, 8 directly by parents, 3 as court orders, 9 by probation officers 50% of thieves were described as chronic and serious offenders, 16% had been stealing for more than three years, nearly 20% had only been involved in stealing a few times and 10% had only been involved in one incident • The control group were 44 maladjusted children who did not steal or commit other crimes but were matched for age and intelligence • all boys were attending Tavistock child guidance clinic in London • 34% of thieves were under 9 yrs old, 50% were under 11, only one of the under 11s had been charged • Roughly 75% of Pps were male and 25% were female; mot representative of normal clinic intake which was 60% male to 40% female • Intelligence was relatively high in both groups with about a third being above average. Procedure:  Unstructured interviews used to provide extremely rich and detailed qualitative data about childhood.  boys completed IQ tests and had psychiatric assessments for about an hour with a social worker  information about the boys was shared with Bowlby who then interviewed the boys and their mothers for another hour to find out about childhood experiences of separation and effects on the children’s relationships  case conferences followed and tentative diagnoses were made  further follow up interviews were conducted as required  psychotherapy was provided  checklist to diagnose affectionless psychopathy: inability to experience emotionally intense relationships, lack of affectionate behaviour and specific lack of guilt and remorse (social conscience) when causing distress to others
  • 2. Child Psychology: Key Studies 2009 Findings • 32 % thieves were affectionless psychopaths ( lack of concern for others, lack of guilt and inability to form meaningful and lasting relationships), 20% were depressed, less than 5% were classed as normal • 0% of control group were affectionless psychopaths, 30% were depressed, 20% were overly conscientious ‘priggish’, • Of the affectionless psychopaths, 86% had experienced early separation (even if only a week before the age of 5) • Only 17% of thieves without affectionless psychopathy had experienced maternal deprivation and just 4 % of the non-thieves had experienced separations during the critical period Conclusions • Maternal deprivation can have severe and potentially long term effects on emotional development including affectionless psychopathy • Effects can show up several years later and this is also supported by monkey studies described by Robert Hinde, whereby effects of a 6 day separation could be seen up to 2 years later with regard to poor parenting of subsequent generations and sexual deviancy. • Bowlby claimed that once the attachment bond was broken, the negative effects could not be reversed or undone. • He thought that the affectionless character was depressive at an earlier stage in life and had suffered total loss of mother or foster mother during infancy and early childhood • The implications were that this research could be used to inform on issues concerning parenting - especially the potential negative effects of mothers going out to work. Criticisms Generalisability: • The sample was not representative: The majority of juvenile thieves were not referred to children’s clinics for treatment. • Also the London Child Guidance Clinic usually had 60% boys and 40% girls - so the 2 groups were not representative of the usual intake and the gender composition of the 2 groups makes the study vulnerable to the accusation of gender bias. • Bowlby’s research was in the form of highly-detailed and thoroughly-comprehensive case studies. While these generally provide rich sources of information and Bowlby’s were triangulated, it is dangerous to generalise from case studies as their findings are unique to the case being studied Validity • Reconstructive memory: The data on maternal deprivation was collected retrospectively - some parents being asked to recall events from up to 14 years previously. Consequently, data not be accurate • Social desirability bias: Also, of course, some parents may have not have asked the interviewer’s questions honestly in order to show themselves in a better light • Some of the children had been separated only for very short periods - so should not have led to bond disruption • Correspondingly Michael Rutter (1981) contended that some of the boys were moved so often
  • 3. Child Psychology: Key Studies 2009 when in infancy that they never really had a chance to form an attachment relationship - and, therefore, the issue is privation rather than maternal deprivation • The study was vulnerable to researcher bias. Bowlby conducted the psychiatric assessments himself and made the diagnoses of Affectionless Psychopathy. He knew whether the children were in the ‘theft group’ or the control group. Consequently, his findings may have unconsciously influenced by his own expectations • The labels Bowlby used for categorisation were not all standard psychiatric diagnoses; Bowlby emphasised Affectionless Psychopathy; but the concept is vague and difficult to assess. The term did not catch on with other researchers in the field. However, the more specific term Reactive Attachment Disorder has been recognised since 1980. In 2003, from the records of 479 participants in the mental health and prison systems, Kathryn Seifert associated Reactive Attachment Disorder with criminality in general and violence in particular. Cause and effect • The research was correlational and non-experimental; for ethical reasons separation/deprivation cannot be manipulated as an independent variable, - thus, cause and effect cannot be inferred. Ie: it cannot be said that separation/deprivation causes emotional damage or Affectionless Psychopathy. • Other factors, such as conflict in the family, may have led to these outcomes. Thus, as Rutter (1972) pointed out, Bowlby’s conclusions were flawed, mixing up cause and effect with correlation.
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