Psychologists have long been interested in understanding the effects of privation, which is defined as the lack of care or attention from a primary caregiver. This deprivation of love and affection can have a profound impact on an individual’s mental and emotional health (Rutter, 1987). Children who experience privation may be at risk for attachment issues, insecurity, and difficulty forming healthy relationships (Lorberbaum, 2011).

Early studies of privation focused on the effects of institutionalization in orphanages (Bowlby, 1953). Bowlby found that the lack of a primary caregiver in orphanages had a negative impact on infants’ social and emotional development. Similarly, Spitz (1945) conducted a study on the emotional consequences of institutionalizing infants in an orphanage. He found that these infants had significantly higher rates of failure to thrive and mortality compared to those who had more contact with a primary caregiver.

More recent research has confirmed the findings of these early studies. Rutter (1987) found that the lack of a primary caregiver had an adverse effect on the development of children in Romania who had been institutionalized. Additionally, Lorberbaum (2011) found that privation is associated with deficits in social and emotional functioning.

These findings suggest that privation can have a profound impact on an individual’s emotional and social development. It is important for primary caregivers to provide love and affection to ensure that their children are able to form secure attachments and healthy relationships.


Bowlby, J. (1953). The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34, 350-373.

Lorberbaum, J. (2011). The implications of privation: A review of literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 1350–1363.

Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57, 316-331.

Spitz, R.A. (1945). Hospitalism: An inquiry into the genesis of psychiatric conditions in early childhood. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1, 53-74.

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