Study Notes

Attachment: Privation & Institutionalisation

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Hodges & Tizard (1989) conducted a longitudinal natural experiment using 65 children had been placed into institutional care before the age of 4 months, where there was a no-attachment policy.

By 4 years, 24 had been adopted, 15 returned home & the remaining 26 were still in the institution. Assessments were taken at ages 8 & 16 years. Data was obtained through interviews with the adolescents and their mothers (and sometimes fathers).

A self-report questionnaire on social difficulties was completed by adolescents and finally, teachers completed a postal questionnaire, focusing on the adolescents' relationships with teachers and peers. The findings revealed that maternal deprivation was overcome to a large extent by adopted children, with them going on to develop strong and lasting attachments to parents once placed in families in comparison to restored and institutionalised groups who made limited recoveries.

However all three groups were more oriented towards adult attention, and had more difficulties with peers and fewer close relationships than a matched control group of adolescents, suggesting that early institutional experience had damaging long-term effects.



Ethical due to there being no experimental manipulation – Hodges and Tizard’s research can be seen to be ethical, as it used a natural experiment meaning that the independent variable was naturally occurring, rather than being deliberately manipulated by a researcher.


Lacks random allocation – As children were already placed in the institution, participants were not randomly allocated to conditions, which means that individual differences between the children could influence the findings in unanticipated ways. The research appears to suggest that positive subsequent care can minimise the harmful effects of privation, however, the adopted children might have been adopted because of personal characteristics such as apparent resilience or being more attractive in some way. These characteristics might explain why they made a partial recovery rather than the fact that they were adopted, which lowers the internal validity of the research.

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