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Czech Twins Case Study Evaluations

Privation is mentioned in the Specification, so the Examiner will expect you to be able to describe it, apply it to real life and evaluate some research into it. However, no particular studies are specified, so it's up to you what examples of privation you use in the exam. Feral children are a famous phenomonen and the case study of Genie is infamous in the history of Psychology and is described here briefly - more detail is available on line concerning this tragic story.


Privation occurs when there is a failure to form an attachment to a single individual - the primary caregiver. This might happen because:

  • the child has a series of different carers (which was the case for many of Bowlby's juvenile thieves)
  • family disruption prevents attachment to any single figure (as Rutter proposed)
  • abuse or neglect means the child receives no attention from anyone (as is the case with feral children and with Genie, below)

Privated children do not show distress when separated from a familiar figure; this is the evidence for their lack of attachment.

In the long term, privated children show clinging behaviour at first: they are attention-seeking and indiscriminate in their friendliness (accepting affection from anyone, even strangers). As the child matures, they are unable to keep rules, form lasting relationships or feel guilt.
Rutter (1976) carried out a survey on the Isle of Wight, involving interviews with 2000 boys, aged 9-12, and their families.  The boys were 4 times more likely to be delinquent if their attachment problems came from family discord (privation) rather than the illness or death of the mother (deprivation). Among the privated children, Rutter recorded anti-social behaviour and disorders of language, IQ and physical growth.

Rutter argues that these problems are not entirely due to lack of attachment to a mother figure. Attachments also provide intellectual stimulation and social experiences, which privated children lack. However, Rutter believes these problems can be overcome later in the child's development, with the right kind of care
Research into attachment shows that, without an attachment figure, infants do not develop in a healthy way. However, a lot of this research ignores why the attachment is missing.
Michael Rutter (1972) wrote Maternal Deprivation Re-assessed and distinguished between privation and deprivation. Rutter argues that
  • deprivation is when attachment forms but is later lost or damaged, but
  • privation is when a child fails to develop an attachment in the first place


An Issue/Debate in this course is Nature vs Nurture; it would help to revise this issue while studying privation.
A feral child is a child who has been isolated from human contact, interfering with their development of human social skills. Feral children miss out on the most basic socialization. For this reason, some psychologists suggest that there is a critical period for attachment. After this point, the child cannot be properly socialized into normal human behaviour.
Feral children have been reported throughout history. The most famous was Victor of Aveyron (1797), who was found living wild in the woods at the age of 12. Victor was unable to speak and never learned human language, despite the lifelong efforts of a French doctor to teach him.


After being rescued, Oxana found it difficult to learn normal language and behaviour. However, therapy in a home for mentally disabled children helped her overcome these difficulties to varying degrees.
It's not clear whether Oxana's recovery was due to successful care, the advantage of spending the first 3 years with her parents or the social interaction she experienced with the dogs.

Oxana works on a farm now and cares for animals. She wants a human life and does not wish to be known as "the Dog Girl". I hope students respect that when referring to Oxana in the Exam.


Andrei and Vanya are identical twin boys who lost their mother shortly after they were born in 1960 in Czechoslovakia . They were orphaned in the first year of life but then returned to live with their father. However, their new step-mother made them live in the cellar for the next 5½ years, beating them on occasions.

When they were rescued at the age of 7, the twins were very small in stature; they lacked speech and did not understand the meaning of pictures. The doctors who examined them predicted they would suffer permanent physical and mental disability. The twins first went on a physical health programme and were put into a school for children with severe learning disabilities. Later, the boys were adopted by an dedicated carer. The twins caught up with their school peers and developed into emotionally and intellectual normal children, according to the case study by Jarmila Koluchová (1972).

The twins later went to college, married and had children. They are said to be entirely stable and in warm relationships, according to Clarke & Clarke (1998). One is a computer technician and the other a technical training instructor.
The Czech Twins are uplifting examples of the effects of privation being reversed. However, they received normal care from foster parents in the first year of life and may have formed some attachment to their abusive step-mother, so they were perhaps deprived rather than privated. They also had each other for companionship, which makes them unlike Oxana (above) or Genie (below).
The most popular idea of a feral child involves a child raised in the woods by animals. This is a popular idea in fiction and it has occurred in reality. However, children do not have to live in nature to become feral. Extreme abuse and neglect can also interfere with normal development.

Feral children tend to take on the characteristics of their environment: a child raised in the woods might be more comfortable around animals, but a child abandoned in a basement might be afraid to leave enclosed spaces.
Famous fictional feral children: Mowgli, Tarzan, Romulus & Remus
In 1991, Oxana Malaya was found in the Ukraine; she was 8 and had lived among wild dogs since the age of 3 when her alcoholic parents had abandoned her. She showed dog-like behaviour such as barking, walking on all fours, sniffing and digging and eating raw meat. She had formed a powerful bond with the dogs; when the authorities tried to rescue her, the dogs protected her. The only words she could speak were ‘yes’ and ‘no’.


Susan Curtiss (1977) describes one of the most famous cases of extreme privation.
Genie Wiley was born in California in 1957. Genie's father believed she was mentally disabled so, when she was 20 months of age and was just beginning to learn speech, he locked his daughter in a room, isolated from the rest of the family, in order to "protect" her.

Genie spent the next 12 years of her life locked in her bedroom. During the day, she was tied to a child's potty chair in diapers; at night, she was tied up in a sleeping bag and placed in a box. Genie's father beat her if she spoke and he growled at her like a dog to keep her quiet. He prevented his wife and son from interacting with Genie.

Genie was discovered at the age of 13 when her mother left her husband. Genie could not stand upright and scored as low as a normal 1-year-old for social maturity. She could only understand her own name, didn’t know how to chew and was not toilet trained.

Genie was sent to live with the family of a research scientist who studied her language development while trying to socialize her and care for her. She advanced to one-word answers and learned to dress herself. Her intelligence advanced to that of a 5-year-old. However, Genie didn’t progress the way normal children would do: she never asked questions, did not understand grammar and her vocabulary did not increase beyond 30 words, although she did  learn to express herself through sign language. She had fits of rage but never cried.
Towards the end of the study, Genie (now 18) had begun to talk about her father (who had committed suicide) and (it seems) recall her abuse:
Father hit big stick. Father is angry. Father hit Genie big stick. Father take piece wood hit. Cry. Father make me cry. Father is dead  - Genie
13-minute documentary on Genie - lots of good footage but a rather optimistic view of Genie's progress during Curtiss' case study


Genie's therapy was cut short. The research study lost its funding and Genie was returned to her mother. However, Genie's mother was unable to cope with her and give her up to a string of 6 foster homes. Genie suffered isolation and abuse in these homes and she regressed (moved backwards) in her behaviour. Genie stopped speaking altogether.

Genie never reached normal cognitive or emotional development. She now lives in a sheltered accommodation in California, with her anonymity preserved. Her mother died in 2003.
Genie's story is tragic, because the researchers trying to treat her failed to help her and her privation was not reversed. A string of mistakes, legal disputes, personality clashes and petty disagreements led to Genie becoming "lost in the system".

Why was Genie's privation not reversed? It is possible that she genuinely was mentally disabled and would never have developed normally, even without the abuse. However, it's possible that what she needed was a normal home in which to feel secure, but instead she was treated as a test subject by the people looking after her.


Rutter's theory is that privation is a different condition from deprivation: it is more destructive and harder to reverse. There is evidence to support this from Rutter's 'Isle of Wight' study, which showed greater social and emotional problems among the privated boys. Rutter's research had a very large sample

The concept of privation is also supported by the condition of feral children, who seem to experience exceptional problems learning basic social skills, language and intellectual development.

Curtiss' case study of Genie suggests that privated children may never develop fully in language, intelligence and social behaviour, compared to children who have normal attachments or deprived children who receive care and therapy later in life.
Research into feral children is often anecdotal (story-based) or retrospective (after the fact). It's often not possible to study feral children from the moment of their discovery through to adulthood. Moreover, it's often hard to know how 'normal' the  children were to begin with.
  • Oxana Malaya seemed normal as an infant, but her parents were alcoholics
  • The Czech twins seemed normal, but their father had learning difficulties
  • Genie Wiley was diagnosed by a family doctor as mentally sub-normal at the age of 1, which encouraged her father (who was certainly unstable) to regard her as retarded
Curtiss' case study of Genie is one of the few opportunities to study a feral child closely and scientifically, but this seems to have caused problems too: Genie's mother alleged that excessive testing had damaged Genie's development.
It's not even clear whether these cases are true examples of privation, since all of these children had (relatively) normal upbringing for the first year of life. Oxana and Genie both began to speak before they were shut away. The Czech twins had each other for company and stimulation.

If there are no definite cases of privation to study, diagnosing a child as "privated" rather than "deprived" may lack validity. Privation may just be an extreme form of deprivation rather than a separate condition.
Rutter criticisesBowlby's theory of maternal deprivation. Many of the "44 thieves" in Bowlby’s study had moved around a lot during childhood and had probably never formed an attachment. This suggests that they were suffering from privation, rather than deprivation, which Rutter suggests is far more damaging to the children.
It is not clear whether the effects of privation can be fully reversed.

Rutter was hopeful that care and therapy could reverse privation. This is supported by the case study of the Czech twins (who made a full recovery) and Oxana Malaya (who made a partial but significant recovery).

However, evidence also suggests that privation may be irreversible. The Czech twins may not have been privated at all, since they had each other as companions. Oxana Malaya is happy but does not live independently and is not socially normal. Genie Wiley showed some progress but completely regressed after the case study ended; even during the study, her progress was far slower than was hoped for.
Disruption of attachment
There are a number of situations in which an attachment can be broken either temporarily, for example by hospitalisation or permanently through death.  A broken attachment like this is referred to as deprivation.  This is quite different to separation, for example, as we saw in the strange situation.  The child is briefly separated from primary caregiver.  Deprivation refers to longer separations in which an element of care is missing. 
Unfortunately there are also cases of children being so badly treated, perhaps being kept in total isolation for many years, that they never have the opportunity to form an attachment and this is called privation.

Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis (MDH)

Bowlby’s 44 Thieves and MDH
Bowlby believed that the effects of early deprivation were permanent and irreversible.  As part of his research he compared the backgrounds of 44 children who had grown up to be delinquent and involved I theft with a control group of 44 children who hadn’t. 
Findings: 32% of the thieves were diagnosed by Bowlby as having affectionless psychopathy, the main symptom of which is lack of moral conscience.  Most of these had experienced separation for at least one week before the age of 5.
Conclusion:  Separation in early life led to long term ill effects, particularly adversely affecting emotional development.
Evaluation: The data collection is retrospective (i.e. the children and their parents had to think back many years to the child’s younger days).  This can produce inaccuracies (as you will appreciate being experts on the memory process!).  There is also the issue of social desirability bias.  Parents will try to portray their parenting skills in a positive light. 
Some of the children were only separated for short periods, so it is difficult to believe this could have caused such emotional disturbances.
The results are correlational, so we cannot prove cause and effect.  Bowlby assumed that the early separation had caused the later disturbance, but many other factors could be responsible.  For example children from poor backgrounds are more likely to be hospitalised.  Children from poor families are also more likely to become delinquent.  Attachments may not be the cause but poverty may be.
From this study Bowlby developed his Maternal deprivation hypothesis:
Breaking of bonds in early life leads to intellectual, social and emotional problems in later life.  Note, by ‘maternal’ it is usually assumed that Bowlby meant mother figure.  Bowlby originally believed the effects to be permanent and irreversible.
Support for the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis (MDH)
Intellectual Development
Goldfarb (1947) orphanage study.  The research involved 2 groups of children:
  • Group 1: spent the first few months in an orphanage and were then fostered.
  • Group 2: spent 3 years in an orphanage before being fostered, (i.e. had little opportunity to form attachments in early life).
Both groups were tested to the age of 12.
The children who had spent 3 years at the orphanage performed less well on IQ tests were less social and more likely to be aggressive.
Emotional Development
Spitz & Wolf’s (1946) study of 100 children who had become depressed after hospitalisation.  A full recovery was made if stay in hospital was less than 3 months.  Note this study was carried out in the 1940s when hospital care of children was very different to that found today.
Affectionless psychopathy has also been reported.  A condition in which people are unable to experience guilt and have a numbing of emotions.  As a result they behave in a cold manner towards others and are unable to express empathy.
Many of these studies were carried out in the 1940s and involved children who had been orphaned by war.  We cannot assume that their long-term difficulties are due entirely to deprivation.  Clearly these children could have been traumatise by war, would often have been kept in poor conditions and not well cared for once rescued.
Evaluation of maternal deprivation hypothesis
Reversing the irreversible
Later studies have shown that many of the effects of early deprivation can be overcome.  They are not so permanent and irreversible as Bowlby seemed to assume.  See Romanian orphans and Hodges and Tizard.
Cause and effect and the issue of poverty
We have a classic case of a study not being able to establish cause and effect.  Bowlby showed that children who are separated from their parents in early life (usually due to spending time in hospital) are more likely to be delinquent when they grow up.  From this he assumed that early breaking of the maternal bond will disrupt later development.  This cannot be proven using Bowlby’s method.  An association or correlation between two variables (in this case deprivation and delinquency) does not establish a definite cause and effect relationship. 
We know, sadly, that poorer people are more likely to resort to crime (delinquency).  We also know, sadder still, that children who are reared in poverty are far more likely to end up in hospital.  Therefore it seems natural to conclude that a third variable, poverty, caused many of the issues for the 44.  Poverty led them to be hospitalised and poverty led them to crime. 
Deprivation or privation?
Bowlby did not distinguish between the effects of separation and privation.  We now know that the long term effects of privation are far more severe than the effects of deprivation.  Rutter believes the effects Bowlby attributed to separation may well have been due to privation.  Children in institutions such as orphanages never had the opportunity to form attachments because of the high turn over of staff so were effectively suffering privation as opposed to the deprivation that Bowlby had assumed.

Privation is the failure to form an attachment and can be caused following the death of both parents (most likely during times of war) resulting in children being raised in institutions or it can be caused by extreme neglect in which children are raised in isolation.  We shall look at the latter first and consider the findings, the ethical issues raised and also the methodological problems and benefits of using case studies in psychology.
Bowlby famously claimed that a bad home was better than a good institution because of the poor psychological care children receive in such places.  Skodak & Skeels (1949) compared two groups of mentally retarded children brought up in an institution.  One group were transferred to a home to be cared for, the other group remained in the institution.  Those removed to a home showed improvement in their IQ (up from 64 to 91), those remaining in the institution showed a drop in IQ (down from 87 to 61).  I don’t know why their IQs were so different at the start!  Twenty years later the difference was still present.  This would appear to lend support to Bowlby.  However, most studies suggest Bowlby was wrong:
Rutter et al (2007) and the Romanian orphans
This is an on-going longitudinal study which began in 1998. 
111 Romanian orphans were adopted into British families.  Rutter wanted to see if good care could compensate for the privation the children had suffered before the overthrow of the Communist dictator Ceaucescu. 
Again this has been run as a natural experiment with age of adoption being the naturally occurring independent variable (IV).  Rutter is studying three groups:

  • Adopted before the age of 6 months
  • Adopted between 6 months and 2 years
  • Adopted after the age of two (late adoptees).
By the age of six years children were making very good recoveries, however, those adopted later (older than two years) had a much higher level of disinhibited attachment.  In 2007 Rutter returned to the children (then aged eleven years) and found that some had made recoveries but about half of those diagnosed with the condition at the age of six still had it at the age of eleven.
Children exposed to privation are more likely to make a fuller recovery if adopted into a caring environment at an earlier age. 
The Romanian orphans are not typical of institutionalised children in general.  Their early upbringing would have been very traumatic as they not only suffered deprivation but also malnutrition, poor care and appalling living conditions. As a result it is difficult to generalise findings to children suffering deprivation in the UK. 
One caveat:  it is still relatively early days for the Romanian orphans.  So far it appears that they are making excellent progress.  However, they will be studied for many more years as part of the on-going longitudinal study.  Only time will tell if there has been any longer term emotional effects. 
Hodges and *Tizard (1989))
A very useful study both in its findings and in its design! 
This is a natural experiment.  All experiments have an IV and a DV.  Usually the IV is manipulated by the experimenter (for example time spent counting backwards in the Brown-Peterson procedure).  However, with a natural experiment researchers take advantage of an IV that changes naturally, in this case children in care either being fostered or being returned home. 
It is also longitudinal.  The researchers study the same group of children on a number of occasions at different stages in their development. 
The aim of Hodges and Tizard's study was to examine the effect of institutional upbringing on later attachments.
Sixty five children in a care home were assessed over a 16 year period.  The participants in the study were all aged 16 and had all been in institutional care until the age of four.  During this time they had not been able to form attachments because of the high turn over of staff.   By the age of two the children had on average 24 different carers each! 
At the age of four:
  • 25 of the children were returned to their biological parents
  • 33 were adopted
  • 7 remained in the institution with occasional fostering
The above categories (form of care) are the IV for this experiment. 
Five main methods were used to collect data on all the adolescents (including those in the comparison groups):
  1. An interview with the adolescent;
  2. An interview with the mother (in some cases with their father present);
  3. A self-report questionnaire concerning 'social difficulties';
  4. A questionnaire completed by the participants' school teacher about their relationships with their peers and their teachers;
  5. Rutter 'B' scale which is a type of psychometric test which identifies psychiatric problems such as depression.
At 16 the majority of the adoptive mothers (17/21) felt that their child was deeply attached to them, whereas only a half of the restored children were described as deeply attached. Adopted adolescents were also more often said by their mothers to be attached to their father than the restored group.
Ex-institutional children had greater problems with siblings than a comparison group.
There were no differences regarding the number of contacts with opposite sex friends, or whether the 16 year-old currently had a boy/girl friend compared to non-institutionalised adolescents.
However, ex-institutional children had poorer relationships with peers than a comparison group. Teachers rated the ex-institutionalised group as more often quarrelsome, less often liked by other children and as bullying other children more than the comparison group.
Hodges and Tizard believed that their findings demonstrate that children who are deprived of close and lasting attachments to adults in their first years of life can make such attachments later, although this does depend on the adults concerned and how much they nurture such attachments.  Hodges and Tizard offer an explanation for why the adopted children were more likely to overcome some of the problems of early institutional upbringing better than the restored children.  The financial situation of the adoptive families was often better, they had on average fewer children to provide for, and the adoptive parents were particularly highly motivated to have a child and to develop a relationship with that child. The biological parents in Hodges and Tizard's sample seemed to have been 'more ambivalent about their child living with them'.
Being a natural experiment this is very high in ecological validity. 
However, being a natural experiment the researchers would have had little control over confounding variables.  For example in this study at the age of four the children were split with some returning to parents and others being adopted whilst seven stayed mostly in care.  It is unlikely that this would have been a random process!  It is most likely that the more personable children with the better social skills would have been fostered.  The ones with the most problems are likely to have remained in care.  As a result it is difficult to be certain that the resulting behaviours at the age of sixteen were down to type of care.  They could have been due to temperament of the child.
The effects of institutionalisation
Reactive detachment disorder
Ever seen ‘Good Will Hunting?”  Matt Damon plays a character with this condition.  An extreme lack of sensitive responsiveness from a parent in early life can lead to a child growing up unable to trust or love others.  They become isolated and very selfish and unable to understand the needs of others can become sociopathic without a conscience. 
Disinhibited attachment..
A condition in which children select attachment figures indiscriminately and behave in an overly familiar fashion with complete strangers.  It seems to be caused by long periods of institutional care in early life, particularly when there has been a high turnover of caregivers.  They often have other behavioural disorders too including attention seeking. 
Mental retardation
Impaired cognitive and intellectual development, for example adversely affecting their ability to learn.  In this case caused by prolonged periods in institutional care.  Rutter’s Romanian orphans showed this initially, but with necessary after-care went on to make a full recovery. 
Practical applications
Studies like Hodges and Tizard and Rutter’s Romanian orphans have significantly improved our understanding of the dangers of institutional care and of steps that can be taken to mitigate against the worst effects.
In the light of their research institutions now assign fewer caregivers to reach child and try to assign a specific key person to each child who takes overall responsibility and spends sufficient time with the child to allow attachments to develop.

Case Studies
Interesting but tell us little about the effects of privation due to the nature of case studies.  Use sparingly, if at all, in your answers! 
Czech twins,PM and JM (as reported by Koluchova 1976).

PM and JM were male identical twins born in the former Czechoslovakia 1960.  Their mother died at birth.  They spent 11 months in a children's home before being reared by their father and stepmother.  The father was of low intellect and the stepmother was particularly brutal in her treatment of the twins.  They were kept in a small closet or cellar.  They were discovered at the age of 7.  Their speech was poor and they had rickets (due to vitamin D deficiency caused by poor diet), so consequently could not walk.  They were subsequently adopted by two sisters and were well cared for.  They were tested at the age of 14 and showed no long term ill effects.  In later life they both found employment and ‘enjoyed warm relationships.’

Clearly the outcome of these two cases is very different.  However, it does appear that given favourable care a near full recovery from early privation is possible.  There are a number of reasons why Genie’s outcome was not good:

·         The possibility that she may have been brain damaged at birth as her father had suggested

·         The later age at which she was discovered.

·         She had been reared alone whereas the twins had each other.

·         The better care the twins received after being rescued.

Freud and Dann (1951) and the concentration camp victims

Six children whose parents had been murdered in concentration camps were adopted into English families after the war.  Despite having no adult attachment figures in their early lives, having no speech and witnessing all types of atrocities the children went on to make reasonable recoveries. 

If asked to describe the procedure of a study investigating privation do not use case studies! 

Case studies; the issues

Case studies provide ideal opportunities for psychologists to study situations that could not be created in any other way.  However, in so doing they need to keep the best interests of their participants in mind.  This doesn’t appear to have been the case with Genie.  In the case of privation we usually have young children who because of their age or mental state are unable to give full consent to research.  Carers may also feel pressurised into allowing access to psychologists even though it may not be in the child’s interest.  Psychologists on the other hand have a double-obligation dilemma.  They have a duty to carry out research into this area but also a duty of care to those being studied. 

Case studies can provide lots of detailed and intimate information about a particular condition and its causes.  However, by their nature they are one-offs and involve patients who have been exposed to a unique set of conditions and are therefore suffering unique symptoms.  Although a case study can provide detailed information about one individual case it is difficult to then generalise findings to others or to come up with a theory based on what is likely to be one disturbed individual.  The two studies above highlight this perfectly.  Two cases of extreme privation but with very different outcomes and no way of knowing why. 

Cases of institutionalised privation provide less detailed information and appear less interesting, but do allow for much greater levels of control and probably tell us more as a result.

Genie (as reported by Curtiss 1977)

Found at the age of 13, she had been kept tied to a potty chair for much of her life.  She had been severely punished for making a noise.  When found she had the appearance of a six or seven year old.  Curtiss described her as ‘unsocialised, primitive and hardly human.’

Following her discovery she continued to be mistreated at the hands of doctors and psychologists who were more interested in furthering their own careers than in Genie’s welfare.  She never acquired full language skills and failed to adjust socially.

Unfortunately we have no way of knowing whether Genie was, as her father suggested, brain damaged at birth.  If this had been the case this could partly explain her lack of progress.