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Forty Four Juvenile Thieves

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Forty Four Juvenile Thieves

John Bowlby was a prominent psychologist whose theories on child development, such as maternal deprivation theory, greatly influenced views and practice on the care of children. He believed that delinquent behaviour could be attributed to separation or lack of emotional connection to the mother during critical stages of development in childhood. Bowlby conducted a classic study investigating the effects of prolonged maternal separation on juvenile delinquency, known as the 44 Juvenile Thieves Study.

  • This explanation will explain all about Bowlby's 44 thieves study.
  • Later this explanation will discuss the 44 juvenile thieves evaluation, including the weaknesses and strengths of Bowlby's 44 thieves study.

Forty-four juvenile thieves, mother and child doing various everyday activities, StudySmarterMother and child, freepik.com

Bowlby's 1944 forty Four Juvenile Thieves: Characters and Home Life

To test the theory of maternal deprivation affecting children's emotional and social development, Bowlby investigated 44 juvenile thieves, comparing them to 44 control children (those at risk of emotional issues but had not committed crimes yet).

The concepts of the study were based on Bowlby's idea of monotropy and how an inadequate monotropic relationship could affect emotional and social development.

Monotropy is the innate need for a child to develop an attachment to one primary caregiver/attachment figure.

Aim

Bowlby's 44 thieves study aimed to investigate whether prolonged maternal separation led to juvenile delinquency in children. According to the author, this would aid the establishment of a cause and effect relationship.

Participants

The participants were children who had been referred to the London Child Guidance Clinic. There were two groups; one group had been brought to the clinic for stealing (juvenile thieves group), and children in the control group had emotional disturbances but did not steal.

There were 44 children in each group, so 88 in total.

The age range for both groups was 5-16.

  • In the juvenile thieves group, there were 31 boys and 13 girls.
  • In the control group, there were 34 boys and 10 girls.

The average intelligence for both groups was above that of the general population. Almost one-third of both groups had exceptionally high intelligence.

Procedure

On their arrival at the clinic, a child was given mental tests to assess their intelligence and how they approached the tests emotionally. A social worker took a preliminary psychiatric examination of the child. The psychiatrist received these results and interviewed the child and their mother to establish their history.

The team then looked at all the information gathered, plus any school or other relevant reports. Finally, a diagnosis was made for the child.

In many cases, researchers conducted further interviews in which the child received psychotherapy and the mother talked about her problems with a social worker. This provided more information, indicating the mother's emotional state.

Bowlby then interviewed the child and mother himself.

Findings

The juvenile thieves were divided into six character types. The table below presents the character types and the number of children diagnosed with each type.

Character Type
Description
Number of children
Normal
Appear fairly normal and stable
2
Depressed
Children who have been unstable, now depressed
9
Circular
These children are unstable and alternate between being depressed and over-activity
2
Hyperthymic
Children who are inclined to over-activity
13
Affectionless
Lack of normal affection, shame, or sense of responsibility
14
Schizoid
Pronounced schizoid or schizophrenic symptoms
4

Let us take a closer look at the 'affectionless' character type, as this is a crucial character type for the findings. Bowlby (1944) distinguished the affectionless type by their 'remarkable lack of affection or warmth of feeling for anyone.'

These children typically spent time alone, a few socialised with other children, but they had no real emotional ties to them, no sense of friendship. These children changed acquaintances often.

Bowlby found that 12 of the affectionless children had prolonged separations (defined in this study as six months or longer) from their mothers or motherly figures before the age of 5. In total, 17 children in the juvenile thieves group experienced prolonged separations.

In comparison, two children in the control group had experienced this kind of separation.

Example of prolonged separation from one of the 'affectionless' children.

Betty I, aged 5.7:

Oldest of four children, the others being four and a half, three and a half, and two. Lived with her mother and stepfather. When she was seven months old, her mother, who was pregnant again, discovered her husband was married to someone else. They parted ways, and her mother got married again quickly.

Betty lived in a series of foster homes from when she was seven months old until she was five years old when she went home.

Bowlby found a correlation between affectionless character and stealing. Also, children with this character type were likely to steal more often and in a more serious way than children with other character types.

The important point about prolonged separations is that these children had been separated from their mothers or motherly figures when attachments had already formed. In a majority of the cases, there were many replacements of the child's caregivers. Bowlby diagnosed those children with 'affectionless psychopathy.'

Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves, a mother holding and kissing her baby, StudySmarterBond and attachment between mother and child, freepik.com

Conclusion

Prolonged maternal separation is a prominent factor in juvenile delinquency, as those showing affectionless psychopathy display emotional and social development issues. This can lead to juvenile delinquency later on in life. Diagnosis and treatment are relevant, but prevention is of the utmost importance.

Was Bowlby's 1944 Study Ethical?

The ethics of the study can be questioned for several reasons:

  • The participants were not given confidentiality. The study revealed the first names and first letters of the children's surnames, making it easy to identify them. In addition to this, they all had case studies published about them. To maintain confidentiality, Bowlby should have used pseudonyms, just their initials or participant numbers, which would have kept their identity hidden.
  • The children taking part in the study may not have been able to give valid consent. Today, research guidelines suggest informing children thoroughly about the nature of any research about them and gaining consent from attending caregivers with appropriate considerations. This study was conducted in 1944 when ethical guidelines weren't as rigid, and children may not have been informed that their data would be used as part of the research.

Forty-four Juvenile Thieves Evaluation

Let us take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the study.

Strengths of bowlby's 44 thieves study

  • This case study provided detailed qualitative information. This allows us to understand what led to the findings of affectionless character types leading to juvenile delinquency and the findings regarding prolonged separation. This means the study has high ecological validity.
  • The study highlighted the importance of the maternal bond during the first five years, which has led to changes and developments in childcare practice, such as changing visiting hours in hospitals to allow children to spend more time with their parents.
  • Some governments offer greater support for new mums and dads. For example, in Sweden, parents are allowed to take 480 days of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Each parent is allowed to take up to 240 days off as they see fit.

Weaknesses of bowlby's 44 thieves study

  • The case studies presented were based on the parents' recollections. Memories may not be accurate or can even be changed, affecting the study's internal validity.
  • Both groups of children (the juvenile thieves group and the control group) had emotional disturbances. This means the results cannot be generalised to all children, i.e. those without emotional disturbances. Also, not all juvenile delinquents have emotional issues.
  • A cause-and-effect relationship cannot be established as this was not an experimental study. There may have been other factors that led to juvenile delinquency. This is a weakness of internal validity. Bowlby incorrectly assigned a cause-and-effect relationship when only a correlation could be found.
  • The findings may be subject to bias, as Bowlby himself conducted the psychiatric assessments and made the diagnoses. If Bowlby had another researcher conducting assessments to assess inter-rater reliability, the findings would be more reliable.

Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves - Key Takeaways

  • Bowlby conducted a classic study investigating the effects of prolonged maternal separation on juvenile delinquency based on his theory of monotropy.
  • The participants were all children who had been referred to the London Child Guidance Clinic. There were two groups of children; a juvenile thieves group and a control group who had emotional disturbances but did not steal. The children were aged 5-16. The average intelligence for both groups was above that of the general population and similar to each other. Almost one-third of both groups had exceptionally high intelligence.
  • Bowlby diagnosed the juvenile thieves into one of six character types: normal, depressed, circular, hyperthymic, affectionless, or schizoid.
  • It was found that 12 of the affectionless children had prolonged separations from their mothers or motherly figures before the age of 5. On the whole, 17 of the children in the juvenile thieves group experienced prolonged separations compared to two children in the control group.
  • There was a correlation between affectionless character and stealing, and Bowlby diagnosed these children with affectionless psychopathy. Also, children of this character type are likely to steal more often and in a more serious way than the other character types.
  • Bowlby concluded that prolonged maternal separation is a prominent factor in juvenile delinquency. Diagnosis and treatment are relevant, but prevention is of the utmost importance.
  • Although the study was based on detailed qualitative information, which provided a lot of important information on the association between maternal relationships and childhood development, it was based on recollection, which is notoriously unreliable. The results cannot be generalised to children without emotional disturbances, and only a correlation can be established, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions about Forty Four Juvenile Thieves

Bowlby's 44 thieves study was an experiment conducted in a controlled setting (London Child Guidance Clinic), where they collected interview and observation data.

Bowlby's 44 thieves study aimed to investigate whether prolonged maternal separation led to juvenile delinquency in children. 

The forty-four juvenile thieves was a study carried out to test how maternal deprivation affects children's emotional and social development.

Bowlby found in the forty-four juvenile thieves study that prolonged maternal separation is a prominent factor in juvenile delinquency. Children separated from their mothers for a long period displayed emotional and social development issues and juvenile delinquency.  

The participants were all children who had been referred to the London Child Guidance Clinic. There were two groups of children; a juvenile thieves group and a control group who had emotional disturbances but did not steal. The children were aged 5-16.

Final Forty Four Juvenile Thieves Quiz

Question

What was the aim of Bowlby (1944) study?

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Answer

The aim was to investigate whether prolonged maternal separation led to juvenile delinquency in children.

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Question

What two groups of children took part in the study?

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Answer

Juvenile thieves group and control group

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Question

What was the age range of the children in the study?


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Answer

5-16

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Question

How many children in the juvenile thieves group were diagnosed as affectionless?


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Answer

16

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Question

How many of the affectionless children had prolonged separations from their mothers or motherly figures?

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Answer

12

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Question

What did Bowlby find about affectionless character and stealing?


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Answer

There was an association found between affectionless character and stealing. Also, children of this character type are more likely to steal more often and in a more serious way compared to the other character types.

Show question

Question

What was Bowlby (1944) conclusion?


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Answer

Prolonged maternal separation is a prominent factor for juvenile delinquency. Diagnosis and treatment are important, but prevention is of the utmost importance. 

Show question

Question

What are the ethical considerations in Bowlby (1944) study?


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Answer

The participants were not given confidentiality. The first names and first letter of the surname of the children in the juvenile thieves group were all given, which makes it easy to identify them. In addition to this, they all had case studies published about them. Also, The children taking part in the study may not have been able to give valid consent. 

Show question

Question

Why is the fact this was a case study a strength of the study?


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Answer

A lot of detailed qualitative information was gained. This allows us to gain a deep understanding of what led to the findings of affectionless character types leading to juvenile delinquency, as well as the findings regarding prolonged separation. This means the study has high ecological validity.

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Question

What did this study highlight the importance of leading to what kinds of changes?


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Answer

The study highlighted the importance of the maternal bond during the first 5 years, which has led to changes and developments in childcare practice, such as changing visiting hours in hospitals to allow children to spend more time with their parents.

Show question

Question

Why can the results of the study not be generalised?


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Answer

Both groups of children (the juvenile thieves group and the control group) had emotional disturbances. The study cannot be generalised to those without emotional disturbances; not all juveniles thieves will have emotional issues.

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Question

Why may the findings be subject to bias?


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Answer

The findings may be subject to bias as Bowlby himself conducted the psychiatric assessments and made the diagnoses. 

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