The bond between a mother and her child is the strongest bond found in all of nature. All infants have an instinctive need to stay near their mothers for survival. Scientific studies prove that separation induces severe psychological stress, causes deviations from normal behavior that is predictable, and provides scientific evidence that show the negative effect on the well being of humans and animals.
The behavioral science of psychology that focuses on understanding behavior and the mind is called cognitive-behavioral research. Psychological and sociological data is replete with information about the importance of maternal bonding and the terrible consequences when it is disrupted. Nature has provided a process of ‘bonding’ to develop a close mother-infant relationship in the first year of life, so that a mother becomes attached to her particular baby. Keeping them together is necessary for survival. The distressing and well-known effects of early separation of mother and infant are contained in a vast array of literature covering the effects of brain damage on the behavior of animals. Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition in which an infant experiences excessive anxiety due to separation from the mother.
Laboratory experiments separating infant monkeys from their mothers in an effort to determine what factors are responsible for infant bonding describes monkeys raised this way as ‘totally destroyed’ non-functioning adults. Monkeys raised by surrogate mothers engaged in strange behavioral patterns including excessive and misdirected aggression. Weaning causes cows and calves to vocalize loudly and show significant increases in walking, butting, and urinating. Calf-cow reunions immediately reduce behavioral signs associated with stress. This is the basis of the separation anxiety which normal infants often show, if they cannot re-unite with their mothers. Sheep, deer, buffalo, horses and other animals follow their mothers from birth. Chimpanzee mothers are exceptionally protective and caring. Infants too immature to walk are carried in their mother’s arms. Dolphin calves in the ocean maintain a close physical association with their mothers. Frantic acoustic signaling during separation increases the risk of mortality due to predation and starvation. Rats show fear and anxiety when separated. Wolves, dogs and cats afraid of separation are known to rescue their young in the face of grave danger. Elephants are among the most exuberantly expressive of creatures. They are capable of complex thought and deep feeling. They express joy, anger, grief, compassion, and love. The emotional attachment elephants form toward family members rivals our own. A baby elephant will cry for hours when separated from its mother. Bonds between mother elephants and their daughters last 50 years or more. Many animals also bond very strongly with humans. The stronger the bond is the greater the pain of abandonment. For the dog, the absence of attention and affection is tragic.
As a society, we have yet to recognize and appreciate the emotional and psychological needs of humans and animals. Sadly, many animals have been tortured and induced with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcoholism, autism, schizophrenia, anorexia, drug addiction, and spinal cord injuries for the purpose of understanding human psychology. Perhaps, many human troubles would be lessened if the emotional needs of infants and young children were better understood. This applies particularly to attachment needs and the effects of separating human infants from their parents.