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Childhood Depression may be caused by many factors. Children raised by a single parent have a high risk of becoming depressed since there is a perception that, they deserve no better than what their parents offered when they were growing up. To determine whether this is true, I will examine childhood depression and the social factors that cause childhood depression. I will show that there is a correlation between family structures and parental interactions in children with depression.
Children, whose parents are depressed, can have an effect on them. A study was conducted between depressed mothers and children (Hammen & Brennan, 2001). The study confirmed that, children of depressed mothers exhibit negative interpersonal behavior compared to depressed children of non-depressed mothers. Negative interpersonal relation between children and their parents can cause a child to view their family as being negative. This negative view can lead the child to have a high risk of rejection, conflict, as well as low self-esteem (Asarnow, Carlson, & Guthrie, 1987). There have been previous studies that suggest that changes in the family structure contribute to childhood unhappiness. There may be a genuine increase in the amount of unhappiness experienced by children as a result of being in a cultural context full of changes in child rearing practices, lifestyles, as well as family structures. With the increase in the number of divorces and both working parents, fathers and mothers are around their children for less of the day, contributing to a generation of 'home almoners'; children who have largely to raise themselves.
Another factor that may contribute to childhood depression is parental hostility. A study meant to look into the effects that parental hostility on a child or the family proved that parental hostility has a connection to childhood depression. The findings in this study show that, parental hostility is associated with family problems. Parents who are hostile lack cohesion and tend to be unsupportive. These families may also be characterized by arguments and alcohol related problems. Parental hostility was also connected to the parental temperament traits of mood and also adaptability. Hostile parents are not likely to adjust themselves to changing circumstances or new ones. Therefore, if a child appears different or responds in ways that the parent does not approve of, the parent may react with hostility. The experimenters showed that high parental hostility would are linked to concomitant levels of child psychopathology that are elevated. However, the findings showed that parental hostility in one parent alone may not cause childhood depression, hopelessness or anxiety, or hopelessness. The experimenters presume that many children develop protective factors such as social factors outside the home that help them ward off psychopathology despite the presence in the home of a parent who is hostile.
There were some limitations during this study. One was that, only parent participated in this study, and without reports from both parents, it is unknown what effects the other parent might have on the family and child. For example, the non-reporting parent may be warm and supportive, therefore, enacting a buffering effect against the reporting parent's hostility. In contrast, the non-reporting parent may be antagonistic or overtly abusive and exacerbate the overall level of hostility in the family. Another limitation was that, they only utilized subjects who were psychiatrically hospitalized. This study does not determine whether children and families in the general community are affected by parental hostility in a similar manner.
This study examined the effects of the parental hostility on the families of psychiatrically hospitalized children. Children with parents who scored high on hostility appeared to have more problems with social skills. Overall, parental hostility appears to impact negatively upon family functioning in a variety of ways and seems to cause numerous problems for the member of these types of families.
The role of attachment in childhood emotional development is imperative, as the bond of attachment in infants to the person who takes care of them, is sometimes said to lay the foundations for all later relationships. Attachment is a very important factor in childhood development. Many psychologists argue that, a child born into a loving and caring family home, with both parents, forms loving attachments and has a greater chance of being a well adjusted and happy adult, whereas some infants born into a dysfunctional family and who through no fault of their own find themselves misbehaving due to their parents inability to look after them for whatever reason, e.g. drug addiction ill health etc in care. This could result in these children having emotional problems and have difficulty forming a loving caring relationship in their own adult life. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and many children overcome their emotional difficulties and earlier adversities and against all odds become well adjusted and successful adults even although they had such an unhappy start in life.
Separation during infancy can cause some to have separation anxiety. There is a procedure called the strange situation devised by Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues. A child is brought into an unfamiliar room to explore and play with the mother present. Later, a stranger enters, talks to the mother, and then approaches the child. The mother leaves the child alone with the stranger for a few minutes then returns and the stranger leaves. According to Ainsworth and her colleagues, the child is described as "securely attached". The child explores, plays with the toys and even make wary overtures to the stranger so long as the mother is present. The child show some distress when the mother leaves, but is happy to see her when she returns. Some children in the study show behavior patterns that Ainsworth and her colleagues regard as signs of insecure attachment. These children are anxious and resistant. They become upset when she leaves and when she returns, run towards her. Other children show a pattern called "anxious/ avoidant". They are distant and show little distress when the mother leaves and ignore her when she returns. Children in this experiment, who show the most stable attachments, are likely to be well adjusted later; children who show unstable attachments are likely to be poorly adjusted later. Therefore, stating that the role of attachment in early childhood plays a vital part in childhood emotional development.
In another study, Schaffer and Emerson (1964) found multiple attachments to be the normal. Although it was common for infants to have one particularly strong relationship and this was with the father. Over 17 per cent of the children had equally strong attachments to both parents. Newson (1974) argued that, mothering skills were not innate. Instead, they were developed through communicating with the baby and being sensitive to its needs. Newson implied that, given motivation and opportunity, fathers could interact with babies just as well as mothers. Parke and O’Leary (1976) confirm this.
Other research challenges Bowlby’s theory of monotropy and has been gathered using The Strange Situation. This is a method of observation developed by Ainsworth and Wittig (1969) that studies infants’ attachment and exploration under conditions of high and low stress. This procedure has been commended by Goldberg (2000) because it is well standardized yet allows controlled opportunities for natural interaction. Briefly, a baby is observed during a series of eight episodes where its mother and a stranger are present (in various combinations). The infants behavior is then associated with three types of attachment: anxious-avoidant, securely attached and anxious resistant. Ainsworth’s (1967) study in Ganda and a replicate study (Ainsworth et al 1971, 1978) in Baltimore both show that the crucial factor in the quality of the infants attachment is the mother’s sensitivity. Over the past twenty years, The Strange Situation has been repeated in many different cultures and with larger samples. The results show that, contrary to Bowlby’s theory of monotropy, an infant is capable of strong attachments with other parental figures provided they are sensitive to its needs (Van Ijzendoorn and Schuengel, 1999).
Bowlby proposed that the attachment between the infant and its mother could not be broken, within the first few years, without causing serious and permanent social, intellectual and emotional damage. This was his maternal deprivation hypothesis. Bowlby based this theory on studies of institutionalized children in the 1930s and 1940s, such as Spitz (1945 and 1946), Spitz and Wolf (1946) and Goldfarb (1943). Spitz and Wolf (1946) studied 91 orphanage infants. Goldfarb compared 15 children raised in institutions with 15 similar children raised in foster homes”. Both studies showed the institutionalized children to perform less ably in tests of intelligence, rule following and sociability. However, all of these studies have two major drawbacks. All studies fail to recognize that the under stimulating nature of the institutional environments could also be to blame for the children’s poorer abilities. Intellectual stimulation, enabling language development, is a major influence in a child’s intellectual development. Likewise, none of them highlight the difference between deprivation (the separation of an existing attachment) and privation (the lack of opportunity for an attachment to develop). It could be argued that the studies described above are demonstrations of the effects of privation. Since Bowlby’s theories and research are centered on maternal deprivation, his use of only the term deprivation in connection with the above studies has the effect of invalidating his work.
A classic psychological study in determining the effects of maternal deprivation is that of Hodges and Tizard (1989). In this longitudinal study children, on leaving care between the ages of two and seven, were either returned to their parents or adopted (with parents who greatly wanted a child). A progress report was taken at age 16. It seemed that, the adopted group had formed satisfactory family relationships (contrary to Bowlby’s hypothhesis). However, outside the family, both groups were more likely to seek approval from adults. They had greater difficulty in forming relationships with peers and were less selective when being friendly within their peer group. These findings are consistent with Bowlby’s theories of maternal deprivation. Both groups were assessed again at age 31. There were little significant differences between the ex-institutional group and a comparison group. However, the first group reported difficulties in forming relationships with their partners, children and peers. They also reported a stronger tendency towards being overly independent, self-reliant and over aggressive. Having said this, they also reported more rewarding intimate friendships than the comparison group, as well as higher levels of self-esteem. Hodges (2000) stated that the evidence supports both the view that, given the right circumstances, the adverse effects of maternal deprivation can fade and the view that there are some enduring effects producing continuities in personal characteristics?
Bowlby’s work received a large amount of media attention and quickly assumed a political dimension as it was taken up by post war pressure groups. They argued that women should stay at home and look after their children full-time. This was a politically sensitive issue at the time due to the large amounts of returning servicemen. Many argued that the women who had been working during the war should return to full time childcare and free up jobs for the returning soldiers. Some of these servicemen included lawyers whom later became judges. As an example, Lord Donaldson served with the Guards Armored Divisional Signals in Northwest Europe from 1942 to 1945. He later became Master of the Rolls. This is the highest judge with civil responsibilities. He is responsible for a precedent, made in 1992, that now forms a cornerstone of family law in the UK. He states as far as babies are concerned, the starting point is that it should be with its mother. This precedent was made as a direct response to Bowlby’s theories of maternal deprivation. Whilst not strictly part of social work today, it does show what a substantial impact Bowlby’s work has had on society and family law. This in turn has influenced current social work policies and procedures.
According to Bowlby, the mother who goes out to work causes her child to experience maternal deprivation. As part of a reaction to Bowlby’s attachment theories, many people believe that day care should be given extra attention because it is non-normative (i.e. it is not how most children are looked after). Scarr (1998) defines day care as any form of non-maternal care of children that live with their parents (or parental figures). However, in Britain and the USA, the mothers of over three-quarters of school age children are in employment. According to Scarr (1998) childcare is both historically and culturally the norm and is therefore universal. Not all research contradicts Bowlby’s theories and their application to day care. Belsky and Rovine (1988) concluded that infants in day care were more likely to develop insecure relationships than those who were left at home. Belsky and Rovine collected their data using The Strange Situation detailed above. Clarke-Stewart (1989) argues that this procedure is inappropriate for assessing children in day care, as they have become used to separation from their mother and may not experience anxiety. Therefore they might be inaccurately categorized as anxious-avoidant. Further research shows that the distribution of insecure infants of working mothers in the USA (anxious-avoidant 22%, anxious-resistant 14%) is almost identical to the overall distribution for studies around the world of non-working mothers (Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg, 1988). Later research shows that given a secure attachment at home and a warm, consistent care at day care, they baby will thrive even in the mothers absence (Schaffer 1996).
Bowlby’s attachment theories have been highly influential on social work today. Hospitals are now more aware on the negative effects of separation when an infant or their parents are hospitalized for a long period. As a result, they are more appropriately designed children’s wards. There are also better provisions made for looking after the child if the mother is to be absent for some time.
Bowlby’s attachment theory, which has its origins in ethological research, has rapidly become an important part of social psychology today. Partly because of the political nature of the maternal deprivation debate, his findings received much attention in the popular media. As such, his work has been subject to varying interpretations. However, there seems to be a general consensus on the importance of secure attachment relationships between mothers (and often fathers) and their babies. Social workers today are highly aware that an insecurely attached infant can lead to an aggressive and delinquent adolescent. In severe cases, this can have enduring effects on their personality and characteristics. However, modern research also shows that given the right environment, the adverse effects of maternal deprivation can be reversed.
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