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Shearer, A. (2015). Obituary: Dr John Bowlby: Cherishing the Children. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 9(2):121-123.

(2015). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 9(2):121-123

Obituary: Dr John Bowlby: Cherishing the Children

Ann Shearer

John Bowlby died at the age of eighty-three over the weekend on the Isle of Skye, which for a resting place might well have contented him and his family of alpinists. His actual home was in Hampstead and throughout the English-speaking world he was probably better known to people outside his labyrinthine trade than any psychoanalyst since Freud himself.

For some within it, his monumental trilogy, Attachment, Separation and Loss finally completed in 1980, is the greatest contribution to psychoanalytic theory of our times.

Bowlby, though, was the man to whom generations of working mothers (and others) traced their guilt, the man who insisted that for mothers to leave their children when young was to risk deep and lasting damage to their emotional development and to that of their own children in turn.

In fact, Child Care and the Growth of Love—first published in 1953, continuously reprinted, 450,000 copies in its English paperback edition alone—drew on the deprivation of children in institutions, totally bereft of maternal care. Bowlby never actually said that the presence of the mother was essential throughout twenty-four hours, or even essential at all, if her substitute were constant.

But so fundamental is his message to the troubled debate on the ordering of human societies that the nuances of his findings mattered as little then as they perhaps do now, but for the crudities of present political insistence on that elusive concept and tradition of “family” as the bulwark of the nation's well-being.


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