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The term ‘social deprivation’ (Open University, 2017)
refers to the factors that prevent a person from having access to decent social
contact. These factors may include neglect, isolation, mental illness, poverty,
poor education and lack of basic needs such as food. If a child does not
receive social stimulations during their early years they are most likely to
not develop the skills necessary for adulthood. There are many effects of social
deprivation including temporary or permanent delays in cognitive development,
emotional wellbeing, social skills and likelihood of depression.

Many theorists believe children have developmental
milestones and during these stages they are most receptive to learning new skills.
Children begin learning language, emotional control and social skills from an
early age in critical stages. In 1975, Edward Tronick conducted the “Still
Face” i experiment investigating
child development. The researchers videotaped the mother and baby engaging in
cooing and smiling. Then they ask the mother to put on a blank face and to not
respond. The baby quickly became frustrated and distressed. This study
demonstrates how sensitive babies are to the world around them and their
parents’ emotions and behaviours. If there are no social stimulations between
baby and parents’ during this ‘sensitive period’ (Open University, 2017), the
baby will fail to develop their emotion well-being, social skills and language.
Socially deprived children would have unfortunately missed out on this key
stage of development.

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Feral children are a perfect example of the effects of
severe social deprivation or isolation. During the early stages of life, a
feral child has not been exposed to any human social interactions. Therefore
they lack language, emotional well-being and social skills. Towards the end of
the eighteenth century in Aveyron south western Franceii, a young boy appeared from
the woods. It was thought that Victor was abandoned around the age of 5 and
spent roughly 7 years surviving in the woods. He was capable of hearing however
he had no speech. Over the years Victor made little progress. He responded to
simple commands however he did not learn language. Victor demonstrates how
important social stimulations are in early life. Once the critical periods have
passed it is incredibly difficult to learn new skills. Feral children nowadays
are extremely rare to come across however there are incidences of children who
suffer severe deprivation in early childhood that they fail to develop language
and emotional responses.

Towards the late ninetieth century in Romania, there was
a ban of conception and abortions which lead to the dramatic increase of
children being abandoned in institutions by their birth mothers. The children
lived in appalling conditions among chaos and filth. They were extremely
deprived from basic human rights and had virtually no social interactions. The
Southampton University and The King’s College London have been collaborating on
a study the English and Romanian Adoptee (ERA) projectiii investigating the
development of Romanian children being adopted into the UK in the early 1990’s.The
study suggests the longer a child is in the institutions the more difficulties
they face when they reach adulthood. One key finding that the study discovered
was ‘Romanian children adopted after the age of six months experienced
difficulties’. This finding supports the theory of social deprivation and the
vital sensitive period in early life. The severe lack of social stimulations these
children experienced has severely impacted their brain and social development. The
children that were very fortunate to be adopted into loving, supportive and
caring families before the age of six months have a fighting chance to improve
over a long period of time. They are more capable of learning the key social
interactions and language needed for adulthood.

It has been shown through countless studies and evidence
that the fail of social stimulation in early life results in failure to develop
social, emotional and language skills. If the parents’ or carer of the child
does not provide the stimulation necessary for the child to develop, it can
lead to a lack of cognitive and intellectual development later in life.  

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