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.

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