Deprivation Of Attachment
Deprivation of attachment refers to the occurrence of an infant's inability to form an emotional attachment to their mother or a permanent mother substitute. Research has shown that for optimum mental health a child needs to form a deep emotional bond with their mother or mother substitute early in life (starting at the time of birth). When this does not occur the child is at risk of developing severe mental and/or physical ailments.
An infant might be diagnosed with "failure to thrive" (a potentially fatal condition) or an older child might develop reactive attachment disorder, a dangerous condition in which a child will engage in violent and destructive behavior such as killing pets or setting fires. While maternal attachment has been discussed and studied since the time of Freud, serious research into this area was not undertaken until after WWII when medical and other social service professionals needed to deal with large populations of orphaned children who were being brought up in institutions with few, if any, opportunities to bond with parental figures. Early researchers in this area include John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.