A Mother's Love



It goes without saying that all of us were once children. However, no matter how similarly you were delivered from your mother’s womb, we all have different upbringings. These upbringings are detrimental to one’s future, especially the role of a mother-figure in a child’s life. John Bowlby, psychologist from London researched about this relationship and supposedly laid the groundwork for this theory of motherly love.


John Bowlby (1907-1990) is a graduate from Trinity College, Cambridge, and pursued medicine soon after in the University College Hospital in London. He has served as a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War 2 and worked as a mental health consultant for the World Health Organisation in the 1950s, where he would create his most famous work regarding child development.


Bowlby was born to an upper-middle class family, where his father worked as one of the King’s medical staff. His mother is a housewife. However, she is not to meet her six children any longer than an hour a day. This was customary at the time for their social status, as people believed that too much care with the children will make them spoiled. Instead, Bowlby spent most of his time with his nanny. He was deeply affected, and later on recall this event as traumatic, when his nanny left him at the age of four. These experiences became a huge influence to his work.


Bowbly believes that “in order to survive, children are preprogrammed to create attachments”. The earliest attachment that can be found is the one between mother and child. Bowlby explained attachment as four characteristics:


Safe Haven

If a child ever feels scared, threatened, or in danger, the mother-figure comforts, supports, and soothes the child.


Secure Base

The mother-figure provides the child with a secure foundation so that the child can learn, explore the world, and sort things out on his or her own.


Proximity Maintenance

Even though the child can explore the world, he or she still tries to stay close to the caregiver to stay safe.


Separation Distress

The child becomes upset, unhappy, and distressed when separated from his or her caregiver.



According to his theory, a child will only be able to feel secure (and subsequently explore the outside world) when the mother-figure is available and responsive, to create this primary attachment that occurs within the child’s first year. If this bond is not strong or breaks down, it can lead to adverse effects for the child in the future and even lead to emotionless psychopathy.


Does this mean that a father-figure is less, if not, at all necessary to the growth of a child? There are no concrete evidence and/or research to prove this comparison yet. However, there are researches that are able to explain gender specific, parent-child relationship (e.g. how daughters are more affected when there’s a lack of a father-figure), which will be covered in the next articleJ.



This article is written based on the book: “PSYCH101” by P Kleinmann, which I highly recommend.

#mother #children #psychology #love