Letter: A better way to tackle child abuse

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Sir: Sara Maitland in her article on abuse of children (24 October) failed to include one form of abuse: that suffered by babies and toddlers left with nurseries and child-minders almost as soon as they come out of the womb.

There is good evidence that babies need to attach to one person and that should be the mother - that is how we have evolved. Being passed from person to person, especially in nurseries where there is a constant change of staff and most are only part-time, ensures that many children sustain emotional harm. My wife taught the reception classes in several primary schools in the 1960s and within a week could tell which children had working mothers, without being told.

This is not politically correct, but if we are going to demand rights for children, why not the right to experience care by the one person who brought that child into the world? This does not exclude fathers, most of whom pay far too little attention to their children. One could also argue that sending children to boarding school at a young age is another commonly accepted form of emotional abuse.

In my experience of observing children as a parent and foster-parent, both of these forms of "parent deprivation" lead to insecurity and frequently an aggressive child - which is not surprising when they have to compete for the attention of a wide range of adults.


Department of Biology

Imperial College

London SW7