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May 4, 1970

Growth Failure From Maternal Deprivation or Undereating

Author Affiliations

Yale Child Study Center New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1970;212(5):882. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170180158031

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To the Editor.—  The study on failure to thrive reported by Whitten et al as secondary to undereating (209: 1675, 1969) offers interesting data, but overlooks the implications of (1) its experimental methods, (2) its interpretations of observations, and (3) its conclusions.We question the ethics of submitting infants to two weeks of deliberate sensory deprivation in the hospital. The fact that they gained weight as well in this setting as they did when "mothering" was added, does not justify the exposure of admittedly deprived children to an environment which they say: "virtually duplicated.. environments that produced classic effects of maternal deprivation, ie, suppression of affect, and developmental and intellectual retardation." We are not told enough of the psychological or developmental effects, but the authors write, "No adverse effects were noted from the understimulation. There was little crying and little effort to engage the nurse." Thus the infants were already