My answer to a 12 mark question on PrivationWatch
Discuss Research Into Privation (12)
Privation is the failure to form an attachment. The study of privation includes Genie (Curtis 1977) and Hodges & Tizard 1989. Hodges & Tizard 1989 carried out a natural experiment, more specifically a longitudinal study, on 65 children who had been placed in a residential nursery when they were less than a few months old. The children experienced early privation, as the institution had a strict policy forbidding the staff to form attachments with the children, so the care provided was of good quality but lacked warmth. By the age of 4 years, 24 of the children had been adopted, 15 had been restored, and the rest remained in the institution.The children that had been adopted and restored were assessed at ages 8 and 16, their parents, teachers and peers were interviewed, and the findings were compared with a control group of children who had not been institutionalised.The findings of the study were that the adopted children were far better than the restored children in forming attachments, as they tended to form closer attachments to their adopted parents than the restored children did to their natural parents. However, both groups of children were less successful than the control group children at forming peer relationships, and both groups also tended to seek far more adult attention and approval than the control group did. This suggests that relatively institutionalised children;who went through privation at a young age, are able to overcome some of the negative effects of their privation if they are able to form attachments to sensitive and caring adults, but overcoming the negative effects does not necessarily extend to peer relationships outside the family home.
Curtis 1977, Genie was discovered at the age of 13 undernourished. She could hardly walk or stand and she couldn’t speak. She spent her early years of life mainly of isolation, severe neglect and physical restraint. She was kept strapped to a child’s potty and her father punished her if she made any sounds. Following her discovery, aged 13, her appearance was that of a 6/7 year-old child. She never fully recovered, as she never achieved social adjustment or language despite being placed with a foster family. Her lack of recovery may be due to the fact that she was found beyond the sensitive period or because of the physical deprivation she experienced.
Hodges and Tizard 1989 could be argued to have high internal validity, as it attempted to establish a good cause and effect relationship between parenting types after privation and the outcome, hence measuring what they had set out to measure. The effect seen was in the adopted children still having the ability to form close attachments to their foster parents unlike the restored children, maybe because the natural parents may not have been as good parents as the foster parents. However, it could also be argued that the research ignored temperament which confounded the results, making the research to have low internal validity. It could be that children selected for adoption were more emotionally stable and sociable than the ones reunited with their natural parents, and this individual difference in temperament could account for them forming closer relationships with their adopted parents. In addition, those who were adopted could have appeared more appealing(more physically attractive), which could mean that they weren’t measuring what they had set out to measure. Therefor, it’s impossible to conclude that the warmer more committed parenting provided by the foster parents contributed to overcoming the negative effects of privation without taking into consideration temperament.
There is research to support the view that the adverse effects of privation are reversible. Koluchova 1976 reported a case study of identical Czechoslovakian twins who went through privation at an early age. They were kept in claustrophobic conditions and maltreated by their stepmother and father but were still able to recover fully, after being placed in the hospital then a loving foster home. They were discovered at 7 years old, they could hardly walk or talk and very fearful of people but they are now adults and appear well adjusted and cognitively able. This suggest that given the right sort of loving and caring environment and the opportunity to develop an attachment to a sensitive caregiver, the effects of privation may be reversible.
To contrast to this, the case study of Genie showed that after extreme isolation the effects of privation are irreversible, as she never fully recovered despite intervention and being placed in a foster family. It could be argued that she had limited recovery because of subsequent care and abuse;as she was mistreated in some of her foster homes, or potentially the age of intervention, as the Czech twins were much younger, so it could be argued that they relatively had a better chance of recovery. Although, it could also be argued that it’s irreversible, as the reason the Czech twins were able to recover socially was because they still had each other while Genie was in full isolation. However, it was also unclear whether she was mentally ******ed prior to her experiences of extreme privation, thus we need to take caution when referring to the case study of Genie. The answer about whether early privation is irreversible appears to be uncertain but in general it is likely that children can recover given the right set of circumstances. In addition, the collection of data are based on retrospective evidence and therefor may not be representative, so cation must be taken when referring to these case studies.