The Effects of Separation of a Child From a Mother


Attachment between a mother and child is an important process that begins just after birth. The skin-to-skin contact bonds the mother and child, while initiating a lifelong attachment. During that lifetime, however, there will be several occasions where the mother must separate from the child. In most cases, the separation teaches the child a lesson about independence. However, there are times when the separation can have an adverse affect on the child and the mother.

At Birth

  • Separation of the child and the mother in the first two hours after birth can affect the mother/child relationship up to a year later, according to a study performed by the St. Petersburg Academy in St. Petersburg Russia in 2009. When mothers had between 25 and 120 minutes of skin-to-skin contact with the baby just after delivery, their bond was stronger a year later. The mother had developed a positive affection toward the child. Their interaction was even more positive than mothers who did not have that contact within the first two hours of birth for one reason or another. Placing the baby in a bed next to the mother didn't help.

In Harmful Situations

  • Children who must be separated from their mothers in order to get away from an abusive home suffer for a short time. According to Practical notes for the Carolina's Child Welfare Workers, the separation causes problems in the child's development, even if the separation would be beneficial to the child. The child has problems in building healthy adult relationships later in life. Some experience delays and regression in behaviors like language, cognition and maturity. The effects on the parent, however, depend on the consequences of the abuse and the parent's involvement.

Traumatic Separation

  • Separations performed with great fanfare or as a result of death, severe illness or violence are traumatic. Children undergoing these separations will likely experience the stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and resolution -- along with the anxiety of being separated from the mother. The effects are greater for the survivor if the mother dies.

Positive Separation

  • There are positive effects of separation. The child suffers some anxiety at seeing the mother leave a room for a few seconds or even passing away from the infant's line of sight. Doing so, however, slowly teaches the child about self-soothing, independence and trust in the mother's return to care for the child. The separation anxiety is most prevalent when the child is less than a year old. Gradually, the child overcomes the anxiety naturally. During this stage, the parent must fight the need give the child more attention than normal and allow the child to overcome the anxiety naturally.


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