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Bowlby, J. (1960). Separation Anxiety. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:89-113.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:89-113

Separation Anxiety

John Bowlby


Since 1948 the Tavistock Child Development Research Unit has been concerned with recording the manifest responses which commonly occur when children between the ages of about 12 months and 4 years are removed from the mother figures to whom they are attached and remain with strangers. Preliminary papers and a scientific film have been published (67), (64), (65), (13), (14) and a comprehensive report by James Robertson and the writer is in preparation. In it we shall draw not only on Robertson's own observations and those of other workers reported in the scientific literature, notably those of Burlingham and Freud (17), (18), and Heinicke (42), but also on reports given us by mothers and nurses with first-hand experience of the problem. Since there is a high consensus in these reports we regard it as firmly established empirically that all children of this age, except those who have already suffered considerable deprivation of maternal care or are seriously ill, react to the experience with shock and anxiety. Our confidence in the validity of these observations is something we wish to emphasize since it is not uncommon for those whose theories lead to expectations of a different kind to cast doubt on them. In our view it is the theories which are mistaken, not the observations, and it is with the theoretical issues raised by these data that this paper is concerned.

It is evident, however, that the nature and dynamics of the responses to the rupture of a social bond cannot be understood until there is some understanding of the nature and dynamics of the bond itself.

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