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How Many People Can a Young Child Feel Secure With?

Peter K. Smith

"What is believed to be essential for mental health is that the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother-substitute - one person who steadily 'mothers' him) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment."
This is perhaps the most notorious quotation from John Bowlby's report to the World Health Organisation in 1951, published as Child Care and the Growth of Love in 1953. What has been especially controversial is the emphasis on a continuous relationship with one person. Bowlby called this need for a child to attach itself to just one main person, "monotropy." His view had a great impact on the debate about working mothers and substitute care for young children in the 1950s and 1960s and influenced policy decisions as well as general opinion.

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