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May 1969

Parent-Child SeparationIs It Really a Cause of Psychiatric Illness in Adult Life?

Author Affiliations

MRCPE, DPM, Birmingham, England
From the Department of Psychiatry, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, England.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1969;20(5):598-604. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1969.01740170102015

THE available methods of investigating parental deprivation in all its forms are crude and unsatisfactory. The evidence that deprivation is an important etiological factor in various forms of psychiatric illness once appeared overwhelming,1-3 but nowadays this is no longer uncritically acceptable.4,5 It has become obvious that deprivation is an extremely complex phenomenon and, while it may play some part in the causation of certain psychiatric disorders, the nature of the relationship between deprivation and illness is much less clear-cut than was once thought. Re-evaluation of our available data is necessary so that we may devise more meaningful methods to investigate the effects of parental dperivation.

This article reviews briefly some of the more reliable reports on deprivation due to physical separation of parent and child (for example, by parental absence or death, or by the child's having to be in hospital). It also attempts to evaluate the alleged

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