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The Attachment Theory and 'Maternal Deprivation' - Sexism and Guidelines for Infants and Overnight Care

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The Attachment Theory and 'Maternal Deprivation' - Sexism and Guidelines for Infants and Overnight Care

The story I was told about Australia is that when Captain Cook first arrived in Botany Bay the people in the dug out canoes carried on fishing because they could not comprehend the sight of the sailing ship.


Research on the Attachment Theory is similar. Those who believe in Bowlby's theory of attachment called 'Maternal Deprivation' are sitting on the big boat whilst his critics are all in the dug out. The trouble is that it is the people in the sailing ship that cannot comprehend that there is any alternative to Bowlby's theory and because they control the narrative they have great influence.

Dr McIntosh was made a guest editor of a special edition of Family Court Review on attachment with all the contributors coming from a Bowlby / Ainsworth tradition. But a similar publication appeared in the UK on 'shared parenting' which was used to lobby Parliament as a 'briefing paper' although in reality it was 'critique' of the research. Already the articles from the special edition are being touted abroad as authoritative accounts of the attachment theory although they represent a Bowlby / Ainsworth view.

An example of the way Dr McIntosh seeks to control the narrative can be seen in the special edition. In her interview with Sir Richard Bowlby, the son of Dr John Bowlby, he makes the statement that,

"My father's first book was Child Care and the Growth of Love".

But this is not so. His father's first book was called 'Maternal Care and Mental Health'.

So why has Sir Richard Bowlby made such an obvious mistake?

To find the answer we have to go to the end of the interview, when Dr McIntosh reminds Sir Richard that he promised her an anecdote about his father. In reply he says,

Interestingly, many people get their names associated with a theory they develop, so why is it called attachment theory and not Bowlbian theory? I'll tell you why it is not called Bowlbian theory. He said at supper one evening, and Ill never forget this:

"I have to find a new term, because traditionally what happens is a theory gets named after the person who first came up with the explanation. And if that happens, when I die, itll basically stop developing at that point because I am not there to sanction the new concepts. So I have to divorce myself from getting my name on it. I used to call it love, then I called it a tie, now I am thinking of calling it attachment".

The reason Sir Richard Bowlby said at the beginning of the interview that his father's first book was 'Child Care and the Growth of Love' is because he wanted his father to take credit for the attachment theory. But the attachment theory is a legacy of Freud's work on the centrality of relationships

If Sir Richard Bowlby said his father's first book was 'Maternal Care and Mental Health' that would make his theory 'Maternal Deprivation'. This is unacceptable to Dr McIntosh because it would make the special edition appear 'sexist'.

Bowlby's theory of 'Maternal Deprivation' said that,
  • A child has an innate (i.e. inborn) need to attach to one main attachment figure usually the mother (i.e. monotropy).
  • A child should receive the continuous care of this single most important attachment figure during a critical period during the first two or three years of life.
  • The long term consequences of maternal deprivation might include the following: delinquency, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, depression, affectionless psychopathy
What is not so well known is that even at the time there was widespread professional disquiet about his theory, so much so that the World Health Organisation published a qualification in 1962 called 'Deprivation of Maternal Care: A Reassessment of its Effects'. But it was not until 1972 that Professor Sir Michael Rutter put these concerns into a cogent argument in his book called 'Maternal Deprivation Reassessed'.

i. Investigations have demonstrated the importance of a child's relationship with people other than his mother.
ii. Most important of all there has been repeated findings that many children are not damaged by deprivation.
iii. The old issue of critical periods of development and the crucial importance of early years has been re-opened and re-examined. The evidence is unequivocal that experiences at all ages have an impact.
iv. It may be the first few years do have a special importance for bond formation and social development. (Maternal Deprivation; Reassessed, Second Edition, 1981, pp.217)

If we look at the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health guidelines for Infants and overnight care - post separation and divorce - Guidelines for protecting the very young child's sense of comfort and security we can see how Dr McIntosh is influenced by the work of Bowlby. The first three principles state,
  • If parental separation occurs before birth or in the first years of a childs life, special consideration is needed to ensure the continuity of a healthy primary attachment, together, where possible, with the safe building or maintenance of a warm, available relationship with the second parent. - But this is what Bowlby said that a child has an innate (i.e. inborn) need to attach to one main attachment figure usually the mother (i.e. monotropy).
BUT CHILDREN ARE NOT DAMAGED BY SEPARATION. RUTTER'S WORK SPECIFICALLY FOCUSED on DIFFERENT TYPES OF SEPARATION. HE ALSO SHOWED THAT PEOPLE OTHER THAN THE MOTHER ARE IMPORTANT. THERE IS NO REASON CANNOT HAVE TWO PRIMARY CARERS. CHILDREN CAN FORM MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS.
  • As this may be a very difficult time for all concerned, separated parents may need extra help to understand that frequent, fixed overnight shared-time parenting schedules during the first years, while well intentioned, may severely disrupt important developmental gains for their young child. - But again this is what Bowlby said, that children would suffer delinquency, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, depression, affectionless psychopathy as a result of separation.
BUT CHILDREN ARE NOT DAMAGED BY SEPARATION. CHILDREN CAN DEVELOP MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL AND EMOTIONAL GAINS FROM HAVING TWO PRIMARY CARERS FAR OUTWEIGHS ANY ALLEGED CONCERNS. PEOPLE OTHER THAN THE MOTHER ARE IMPORTANT TO CHILDREN.
  • Under the age of two years, overnight separations from the primary parent create unique stresses for the infant. In the majority of circumstances, non-essential overnight separations during these critical months of development are not advisable. - But once again this is simply repeating claims made by Bowlby that a child should receive the continuous care of the single most important attachment figure during a critical period during the first two or three years of life.
RESEARCH SHOWS THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A 'CRITICAL PERIOD'. SOCIAL WORKERS AND FAMILY COURT WELFARE WORKERS TALK IN TERMS OF A 'WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY' BUT EXPERIENCES AT ALL AGES ARE IMPORTANT TO CHILDREN.

In an article for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry from 1979 McConaghy asks the question, 'Maternal Deprivation: Can Its Ghost Be Laid?'. He says,

"The hypothesis that separation from an established mother figure in early childhood has a detrimental effect on a child's later mental health has been widely promulgated and commonly accepted both in academic and lay circles throughout the Western world. The hypothesis continues to have a significant effect on mothers' decision as to whether they should resume work or not, and on governmental policy concerning the provision of child-care facilities for the children of those mothers who do. The evidence for the hypothesis is reviewed and it is concluded that it does not satisfy the requirements of scientific methodology. The theory that a child's attachment to its mother figure is the emotional basis for its future love relationships, group affiliations and loyalty to the state, is now being accorded similar acceptance without further evidence than that supporting the original hypothesis". (Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1979 Sep;13(3):209-17. Maternal deprivation: can its ghost be laid? McConaghy N.)

Maternal Deprivation's ghost will never be laid whilst there are researchers such as Dr McIntosh prepared to promote it.

I hope this is helpful,

kip
(UK member)

ADDENDUM

Roger,

 This is going to sound really corny but I was recently invited onto an Australian radio programme to talk about guidelines for baby and infant contact.


  PART TWO specifically talks about the guidelines;-

  VIDEO - "Men Can't Nurse" say Australian Guidelines on contact for fathers from Dr Jennifer McIntosh - PART TWO

http://youtu.be/InjMwNqg9oI

  VIDEO - PART onE is about the research background;-

  "Men Can't Nurse" say Australian Guidelines on contact for fathers from Dr Jennifer McIntosh - PART onE

http://youtu.be/WO2tC-TUsMs

  I hope this is a helpful starting point for your own case.

  kip

http://www.dadsontheair.com.au/shows/familists-v-feminists.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DadsOnTheAir+%28Dads+on+the+Air%29&utm_content=FaceBook

NOTE; Sir Richard Bowlby inherited the family title through his uncle not his father, who was never knighted. Sir Richard Bowlby is a trained photographer and has no qualifications in children's welfare. He is now retired and spends his time promoting his father's work, for example by giving talks and lectures.
Samba said
God, please dont give this crackpot anymore airtime. Its dangerous and damaging, he's not even qualified.

Last edit: by Kip


Kingsley Miller is the author of 'even Toddlers Need Fathers', a critique of the principle of 'Maternal Deprivation' as applied in family courts, which Professor Sir Michael Rutter described as an, 'interesting and informative guide'. He has also received a letter from Buckingham Palace stating, 'It was thoughtful of you to enclose a copy of your book 'even Toddlers Need Fathers' and Her Majesty has noted your concerns'.
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