Changing attitudes towards the care of children in hospital: A new assessment of the in.uence of the work of Bowlby and Robertson in the UK, 1940-1970

Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, the Netherlands.
Attachment & Human Development (Impact Factor: 2.38). 04/2009; 11(2):119-42. DOI: 10.1080/14616730802503655
Source: PubMed


It is generally believed that the work of Bowlby and Robertson was new and decisive in changing the hospital conditions for young children. The fact that parents in the UK and other European countries can now visit their sick child at any time they wish or even room-in is attributed to an acquaintance with Bowlby's findings and Robertson's well-known films about the potentially detrimental effects of hospital stays for young children. In this paper we shall argue that this picture is incomplete and that, historically, things were rather more intricate. Bowlby and Robertson were neither the first nor the only researchers who tried to change hospital policies. Moreover, the older hospital policies were not uniformly bad. Long before Bowlby and Robertson began their plea for reforms, several individuals and hospitals had already introduced conditions that we now still regard as exemplary. The whole change towards more liberal, flexible, and humane practices in children's wards took place over several decades and was fuelled by both worried medical doctors, pressure groups of parents, sympathetic editors of medical journals, and emerging new research findings such as those provided by Bowlby and Robertson. In that societal debate, the voices of Bowlby and Robertson were influential but not necessarily new or decisive.

Download full-text


Available from: René van der Veer,
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this contribution, the authors give an overview of the different studies on the effect of separation and deprivation that drew the attention of many in the 1940s and 1950s. Both Harlow and Bowlby were exposed to and influenced by these different studies on the so called 'hospitalization' effect. The work of Bakwin, Goldfarb, Spitz, and others is discussed and attention is drawn to films that were used to support new ideas on the effects of maternal deprivation.
    Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 09/2008; 42(4):325-35. DOI:10.1007/s12124-008-9071-x · 1.11 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The work of Robertson and Bowlby is generally seen as complementary, Robertson being the practically oriented observer and Bowlby focusing on theoretical explanations for Robertson's observations. The authors add to this picture an "untold story" of the collaboration between Robertson and Bowlby: the dispute between the two men that arose in the 1960s about the corollaries of separation and the ensuing personal animosity. On the basis of unique archival materials, this until now little known aspect of the history of attachment theory is extensively documented. The deteriorating relationship between Robertson and Bowlby is described against the background of different currents in psychoanalysis in Britain in the interbellum.
    Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 02/2009; 45(3):236-52. DOI:10.1002/jhbs.20380 · 0.79 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this contribution the authors reply to two commentaries - published in this issue - on their earlier paper discussing the changing attitudes towards the care of children in hospital in the UK between 1940 and 1970. They argue that the work of Robertson and Bowlby was indeed very important in bringing about these changes, but stand firm that the work of Robertson and Bowlby was not new or decisive.
    Attachment & Human Development 11/2009; 11(6):569-72. DOI:10.1080/14616730903282522 · 2.38 Impact Factor
Show more