“Harry Harlow’s experiments at the University of Wisconsin had extremely powerful implications for any and all separations of mothers and infants, childrearing and adoption. Harlow’s data confirmed the well known psychoanalytic emphasis on the mother-child relationship at the dawn of life.” —Judith Land
Harry Frederick Harlow (October 31, 1905–December 6, 1981), an American psychologist best known for his maternal separation and social isolation experiments on rhesus monkeys, demonstrated the importance of caregiving and companionship in social and cognitive development. The first love of the human infant is for his mother. The tender intimacy of this attachment is such that it is sometimes regarded as a sacred or mystical force, an instinct incapable of analysis. Harlow’s experiments offered irrefutable proof that love is vital for normal childhood development and revealed the long-term devastation caused by deprivation, leading to profound psychological and emotional distress.
Harlow’s work helped influence key changes in how orphanages, adoption agencies, social services groups, and child care providers approached the care of children. Along with child analysts and researchers, including Anna Freud and René Spitz, Harlow’s experiments added scientific legitimacy to two powerful arguments: against institutional child care and in favor of psychological parenthood. The permanence associated with adoption was far superior to other arrangements when it came to safeguarding the future mental and emotional well being of children in need of parents.
Reference: Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child, ISBN-10: 1604945702 and ISBN-13: 978-1604945706, p. 273-274
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