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Bowlby's theory and the child's deception

The confusion regarding the work of Dr John Bowlby's theory of 'Maternal Deprivation' stems from the superficial observations he used to describe the separation of a child from an adult;
  • Protest. Crying but able to be comforted, inwardly angry and fearful.
  • Despair. Calmer, apathetic, no longer looking for caregiver, may seek self comfort through for example thumb sucking.
  • Detachment. If the situation continues for weeks, or months, the child may appear to be coping but is unresponsive, the return to the caregiver may be ignored.
According to this theory if children cry on separation they must be 'protesting' and and if they are not protesting they are in 'despair'. Although these reactions may be normal Dr John Bowlby's interpretation is not. 

As any professional who works with children knows children may cry when they are left at nursery or play school but they are not 'protesting' or in 'despair'. Ten minutes later they are happy playing with their new found friends. Children are sociable!
Yet these superficial observations during separation from the mother are regularly used in family proceedings to justify the 'Tender Years' doctrine and restrict fathers contact with their children.

Holland and Webb in ‘Learning Legal Rules’ (Blackman 1999) describe how this language is employed in legal arguments.
We have already shown that facts are not plucked out of the air, ready-made. They need to be described - a process which, of course, requires language. Hanson (1959) makes the fundamental point that language and fact are dependent upon each other. This leads us to the conclusion that the way in which facts are described, not surprisingly, governs our perception of the nature of
that fact. Linguistic differences thus can be said to effect the
‘reality’ created.
As a result of perceiving attachment in these terms, as Lady Justice Hale (Baroness Richmond) states, Dr John Bowlby arrived at 'the theory that children were damaged by separation from their mother or mother figure' and unscrupulous solicitors will use this deception to tell the judge or magistrate that because of these observations contact with the father should be restricted. This argument is morally reprehensible.

Professor Sir Michael Rutter has shown the value of contact with both parents - 'Investigations have demonstrated the importance of a child's relationship with people other than his mother'.

Children bond in exactly the same way with everybody. If mothers were given the same amount of contact time as fathers their children would react in exactly the same way. 

It is because the 'Tender Years' doctrine discriminates against fathers as parents, in accordance with the theory of 'Maternal Deprivation', that makes it appear as though Dr John Bowlby was right. 

Professor Sir Michael Rutter has shown that the first few years may be important but it is for 'bond formation'. If fathers accept restricted access they risk the judge or magistrate in the Family Court making an order that because 'bonding' has not occurred direct contact should be terminated.