Sir Michael Rutter: Deprivation and Privation

Sir Michael Rutter studied adolescent boys to look at whether or not maternal separation and conflict in the home could be linked to behaviour patterns. He did not believe that early experiences automatically had a disconcerting effect on later behaviours. He questioned John Bowlby’s theory that deprivation caused juvenile delinquency amongst children. He implied that Bowlby may have over-simplified the concept of maternal deprivation. Rutter would make a distinction between deprivation and privation.

Privation occurs when no attachment is formed whereas deprivation takes place when a child is separated from an attachment figure after an attachment has been formed. This separation could be short term i.e. short stay in hospital or long term i.e. parental death or divorce. Rutter believed children could form multiple attachments rather than a specific attachment to just one person.

He believed privation would have more serious effects on a child’s development than deprivation.

Rutter stated that conflict in the home, family dysfunction and stress of separation was more likely to have a negative impact on behaviour than maternal separation than the separation itself. He believes children can recover from early deprivation and privation, however hurt and confused at the beginning of any family separation/conflict, most children are resilient and can adjust. The case studies of Genie and the Czech Twin boys are examples of privation where children have not formed a strong attachment. The Czech twin boys may have started to form an attachment with their mother but unfortunately she died and was replaced with a woman to whom no attachment was made. Genie did not form an attachment with her parents at all. Not only do children suffer privation but also suffer very little social and intellectual stimulation, effecting all aspects of development.

Rutter believed that children could recover from early maternal privation as most children are resilient and can adjust but require to be in a good quality, loving environment. Their social development may not be as good as children who have never suffered privation.

Bill Carlson

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