Further his studies of the effects of war on children who were separated from their mothers at an early age was considered to be research done in a crisis situation. Critics argue under these circumstances it would be impossible to conclude how the same children would have reacted out of a war time environment. It was also argued that Bowlby failed to take account in his studies what had happened to the children after the separation.
Bowlby was influenced greatly by James Robertson’s research on the effects of separation on mother and child through hospitalisation. Robertson’s studied children between six months and three years of age who were separated from their mothers due to hospitalisation. Robertson claimed to have established a sequence of behaviour that all children would pass through. This sequence consisted of distress, were children behaved in a disturbed manner. Despair whereby the child seems to lose hope of finding there lost parent. Lastly, the child display detachment type behaviour, refusing anyone to become involved with them. Robertson concluded that separation from their mother was harmful.
In 1971 Klein and Stern studied why parents abuse their children. They found evidence in their studies that a high percentage of abused children had been born prematurely. Because these children were put into an incubator and separated from their parents an attachment was unable to develop, resulting in later abuse toward the children. The study concluded that there is a crucial period when attachments not formed adequately would not be able to be re-formed. This is of considerable importance to social work in relation to the modern day understanding of child abuse as further research has shown that many abusers were once abused themselves.
Klaus & Kennell (1976) two paediatricians put forward the theory that they too believed there was a critical period when attachment took place, this was immediately after birth, when the mother was physiologically pre-disposed to bond with her infant. It was during this time that the strength of the attachment was determined. The American National Center for Clinical Programs supports Bowlby’s notion of ‘motherlove’. They propose that a parent who realises they are going to have a long-term relationship with their child will put more into the caregiving and interaction, as opposed to a substitute care giver who may not be so motivated as they see many children come and go and therefore do not build up a caring relationship with children. This idea has implications for fostering as a consequence may be lack of care or favouritism towards other children in their care.
John & Elisabeth Newson (1986) point out that one function of a parent is to act as a memory store for the children to play back and compare experiences. Children in a care setting without a key adult with whom they have a close relationship with will be unable to build upon past experiences and this may have an impact on their emotional development. Many studies have looked at whether attachment is instinctive, as Bowlby had believed.
Konrad Lorenz (1935) agreed that attachment was instinctive when he put forward his imprinting theory. His observations revealed that newly hatched goslings follow the first thing they saw, this could be a human or other object and there was a brief critical period early in the goslings life when this would occur and was found to be irreversible. Lorenz’s believed this was biological, a factor of evolution that ensures the young of all species are able to attach to someone for survival, and was relevant to the way humans form attachments in relation to it being an instinctive behaviour. Critics of his theory (Sluckin 1961 and Bateson 1964) have shown that if a young bird is kept isolated it stays unimprinted beyond Lorenz’s ‘critical period’ and imprinting can take place after the critical period has passed. This casts doubt on Lorenz’s claim that imprinting processes are instinctive. Many researchers now believe that imprinting is actually a process of rapid learning (MacFarlane 1975)
In contrast to the theory that attachment is instinctive Colin Turnbull and Margaret Mead when studying families in various African tribes concluded that they saw no signs of instinctive love or affection between parents and children. It was quite normal for many children to be left to fend for themselves; many were even killed as they were thought of as burdens by their parents. The researchers came to believe attachment to be a learnt process that we internalise from observing our own mother’s behaviour, and if not learnt properly for example through illness or as in the tribes case through a different set of family norms and lifestyles, then no bonding or emotional attachment can occur.
In New York in 1943 Goldfarb conducted a study of orphans. Two groups of fifteen orphans were matched for age, sex and social background of their parents. The orphans of group A had been fostered before nine months old. The orphans in group B had spent at least their first three years in an orphanage before they were fostered. Goldfarb visited each child at ages three, six, eight and twelve years and measured their development with regard to intelligence, language skills, social maturity and their ability to form relationships. Goldfarb found that every child in group A did better than those in group B leading to the conclusion that a ‘normal’ family home is crucial to emotional and cognitive development. Critics of this study argue that the children may not have had the same intelligence to begin with and that the children in Group B did not have the stimulation of a family for as long a period as those children in Group A.
Harlow & Zimmerman conducted studies on a group of rhesus monkeys. Their studies consisted of isolating young monkeys for three months, six months or twelve months. The researchers concluded that the behaviour of the monkeys who had been isolated for twelve months was proportionately worse than those who had been isolated for three months. The behaviour of all the monkeys who had suffered isolation was seen to be disturbed.
The same researchers also placed monkeys in a cage with surrogate mothers, a doll made of wire with a feeding bottle and a doll made of wood and towelling without a feeding bottle. The monkeys spent equal amounts of time with each ‘surrogate mother’. The studies showed that the monkeys preferred to cling to the towelling doll even if it meant they did not have a feeding bottle. This led the researchers to believe that warm contact is of critical importance as a need for the monkeys and leads to affectionate responses. Critics of both these studies question the relevance of animal studies to human behaviour.
Bowlby’s influential theory managed to link together the evolutionary focus of adaptation with the psychodynamic and behavioural importance of social relationships during infancy and childhood. (Hollin 95) A measure of its influence can be gained from the action of the World Health Organisation in 1955 stating that “Permanent damage can be done to the emotional health of babies and children when put into nurseries or sent to child-minders.” The WHO report had many consequences and resulted in lots of practices regarding child care and children’s needs being changed. Women were encouraged to stay at home and were made to feel guilty and bad mothers if the went out to work. (Which suited the government at the time, as they needed these vacated jobs for men)
Family Allowance payments were also introduced as a further inducement to keep women from going out to work Maternity wards encouraged siblings to stay with their mother, whilst children’s wards encouraged mothers to stay. A main influence on social work practice was the idea that ‘ a bad home is better that the best institution’ which resulted in less fostering and removal of children from poor if not dangerous situations at home.
Bowlby’s findings were influential but controversial and became the starting point for further studies. Some studies began to disagree with Bowlby, Fraiberg in 1974 argued that it was possible to strengthen an attachment; Parents of blind children who did not experience eye contact with their infant felt rejected and consequently were unable to develop a strong attachment to their children. When taught to interpret their child’s hand movements, it was found the bond could be strengthened. Interaction was thought to be the important element in developing the attachment.