How Brief Maternal Deprivation Affects Babies
The connection between mother and baby is intense and runs deep into the wells of human connections and emotions; the lack of such a connection can lead to many psychological disorders.
It has been theorised for years that babies require physical contact and affection with a primary person for at least the first two years of their life in order to develop adequate psychological and emotional skills. A recent study conducted at the School of Science at IUPUI concluded that the effects of separation of Mother and baby at birth could have long lasting psychological effects well into adulthood. The study, conducted under the watchful eye of Associate Professor of Psychology Christopher Lapish, found that even a brief period of distance between baby and mother could significantly alter the baby’s future and the adult function of the baby’s brain.
In this study, young rats were separated from their mothers for a period of 24 hours when they were only 9 days old. This is an extensive period of time in terms of brain development, which is why the effects have the ability to last so long. During this age bracket, the child uses maternal physical connection as the primary indicator of their mother’s availability. Trauma inflicted on the brain at this time can lead to memory impairment, lacking communication between certain brain regions and other neurological impairments. The results of the removed rats, in comparison to rats that had not been removed were far-reaching with displays of biological, behavioural and psychological abnormalities in adulthood.
The benefit of studies as such can help path the way to more extensive treatment techniques to help assist in the treatment of such neurological changes. With rat’s brains being so similar to humans, scientists are put in the perfect position to form a well-balanced opinion when it comes to the human brain. Studies have also concluded that when a child is separated briefly from its mother, the child is less likely to explore or be active in any way. These consequences of deprivation can be seen even after the infant and mother are reunited and can last for extended periods of time.
Separation between mother and baby, in instances such as incarceration, are said to have major effects on the infant. These effects on the brain can be seen well into adulthood and these changes within the brain can lead to an increase in the chances of a person receiving mental health problems, such as schizophrenia in their future. The effects of maternal deprivation can be so harmful due to the fact that human babies are totally dependent on their caregiver for everything in life at this time. Caregivers provide an infant with social stimulation, food, shelter and protection.
John Bowlby’s theory of attachment suggests that babies are born with an inbuilt need to attach to a one primary figure, which is usually the mother. This relationship is a different relationship altogether in comparison to most other bonds and is a very important connection to establish and maintain. Bowlby has theorised that the lack of this relationship can possibly lead to serious consequences including that of affectionless psychopathy, delinquency, reduced intelligence, depression and increased aggression.
Maternal deprivation can affect babies in many intense and extensive ways that can last well into the future. The connection between mother and baby is intense and runs deep into the wells of human connections and emotions; the lack of such a connection can lead to many psychological disorders.