Hospitalism is a disorder of the child’s psyche that results from the loss of the mother as well as the physical and emotional abuse suffered by the child.
Psychologist Bakwin H. R.’s: “Behavior disorders in children research” shows that newborns under 6 months of age who have been in an institution for some time show a characteristic picture of apathy, weight loss and pallor. Children do not respond to stimuli such as smiling and beating, are indifferent to food and do not gain weight.
The longer a child is separated from the mother, the more he or she lags behind in physical and mental development. This refers to the regression (return) of the child to an earlier stage of psychophysical development. The child is less and less active, stares blankly into space, loses its appetite and often suffers from insomnia.
It is an emotional state that Spitz R. A., Wolf K. M.: Anaclitic depression; an inquiry into the genesis of psychiatric conditions in early childhood call anaclitic depression. It is characteristic of older infants who in the first months of life lived in a good emotional relationship with the mother and then were abruptly separated from the mother without receiving an adequate replacement for her. If the mother did not show much emotional warmth towards the child, she will not cause signs of hospitalization before being placed in a hospital or home. But this is not a sign that such a child is resistant to harmful factors but rather proof that it is already emotionally damaged.
Anaclitic depression is an emotional state characteristic of older infants who have been separated from their mother early in life. If the mother did not show much emotional warmth towards the child, she will not cause signs of hospitalization before being placed in a hospital or home. This is because such a child is already emotionally damaged.
During the second and third years of life, the child reacts strongly to being separated from its mother. It is very upset and cries incessantly for several days, often rudely refusing to approach its mother’s replacement. After a few days it falls into apathy and only gradually returns to a normal mood.
In children who lived in an emotionally disinterested environment before arriving at the hospital, no symptoms of hospitalism were observed. These are children with a sensitivity deficit which will hamper their character maturation. Young children who cry painfully when separated from their mothers should not be considered “spoiled”.
Signs of hospitalism can remain even when the child returns to the mother, Drs. Burlingam and A. Freud say.
- The child treats the mother in a hostile manner;
- The child makes excessive demands of the mother, would like to have her exclusively for itself, and reacts to any scolding with fierce anger and jealousy;
- The child shows a cheerful but superficial attachment to every adult who is with it;
- The child apathetically withdraws from all emotional connections, and sometimes indulges in a monotonous swaying of the body or nodding its head.
When a child is separated from its mother, it often behaves like an infant and is timid and gets angry easily. If the parents react reasonably to these disorders in the child’s behavior, if they ignore its outbursts and calm them down, the child will soon establish an emotional balance. But there are parents who do not understand the essence of a child’s reaction to separation, so they scold it, warn it and punish it.
Between the ages of three and five, the child is still quite sensitive to separation from the mother, but significantly less than at an earlier age. In this period of their lives, children no longer live exclusively in the present, so they can imagine a time when they will return to their mothers. Before the age of three, most children are not capable of this.
After the age of five, sensitivity of children to separation from their mothers decreases even more. Many children are not quite able to adapt to the temporary loss of their mother’s presence until they are seven or eight. An emotionally balanced child can, at that age be safely separated from the mother for a while without danger. On the contrary, a neurotic child will respond to such separation with even deeper emotional difficulties.
The consequences of the permanent loss of the mother due to her death or divorce with the assignment of the child to the father, depend on what kind of replacement it received for the mother. Fathers who have lost their wives for any reason, and are still young, usually remarry in a short time. That is why a stepmother is the most common substitute for a mother. If the father does not remarry, the child is regularly accepted by another woman in the family, grandmother, aunt, older sister, etc. It is very rare that the father does not have the opportunity to entrust the child to someone in the family, so he is forced to place it in an orphanage or kindergarten.
Fathers who have lost their wives for any reason, and are still young, usually remarry in a short time. Stepmother is the most common substitute for a mother. It is very rare that the father does not have the opportunity to entrust the child to someone in the family.