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Effects of Orphanhood on Child Development

Info: 2272 words (9 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 11th Feb 2020

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Tagged: bereavement


“A solid family environment is essential in paving the way for the realization of future dreams and aspirations of children.”

—Nelson Mandela

“The suffering of children is not in itself what is revolting, but the fact that it is undeserved…… if we cannot make a world in which children no longer suffer, at least we can try to reduce the number of suffering children”

– Albert Camus: “L’ Homme Revolte”.

“Children must be protected not because they are innocent but because they are powerless”

– Mason Cooley

A research literature review is a written summary of the state of existing knowledge on a research problem. The task of reviewing research literature involves identification, selection, critical analysis, and written description of existing information on a topic. 11

The various attributes of orphans, orphaning and orphanages are considered in separate sections


The word “orphan” is derived from the Latin word ‘orbus’ meaning bereft or to suffer the loss. Today, it applies to a child who’s either or both of the parents are dead.12

According to UNICEF the definition of an orphan is anyone between the ages of 0 and 17 years who has lost at least one parent or both the parents.13

Vulnerable children are those who belong to high-risk groups who lack access to basic social amenities or facilities. “Vulnerable” is analogous to the word “affected”. They include street children, orphans, child prisoners, child laborers, the children of sex workers and, confusingly, children who are orphaned by AIDS or have an HIV-positive parent14. Historically such orphans have been reared by close relatives or in institutions meant for other deprived children like them.

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India’s commitment to the cause of children is an old as its civilization. The child is believed to be a gift of the Gods, which must be nurtured with care and affection, within the family and the society Unfortunately, due to socio-economic and political factors, the incidence of neglect, abuse and deprivation, particularly in the poverty afflicted sections of the society, has gradually increased .

The category of ‘socially handicapped’ children includes within it those children who are ‘destitute’, ‘abandoned’, ‘deprived’, ‘neglected’, ‘victimized’, ‘vagrant’, and even ‘delinquent’ children observes.15 Khandekar feels that the term ‘deprived children’ implies deprivation of many aspects, such as economic, social, familial, emotional and moral.16

Bose opines that the category of children in need of care and protection s a wider scope which includes children whose parents are extremely poor, children of working women with low income, exploited, runaway children, child beggars, vagrants, delinquents, etc.17Thus we see a little agreement on the specifics of who can be include into the category of orphan children. Bose vehemently advocates that the juvenile delinquents too be included the class of orphan children. They have even been called neglected juveniles and described as one who is a destitute, who is left alone, abandoned, forsaken, in utter want, without resources, deprived, in a state of extreme poverty, being without food, shelter etc.

The working group appointed by the Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India in 1969 listed the following circumstances to define orphans, although there are other terms such as ‘socially handicapped’ used interchangeably:

a) a child, whose parents are not able to look after with proper care and control.

b) a child, without any living parents, who is not being looked after by any other near relatives on whom there is a moral or social obligation to look after.

c) a child who has no home or settled place of abode, without any ostensible means of subsistence.

d) a child whose surviving parent is a lunatic.

e) a child deserving special protection, from parents who indulge him / her in prostitution, drunkenness or anti-social behavior.

f) a child whose parents have forced him into beggary, acrobatics or performing tricks for the purpose of earning or any other kind of child labor.

g) a child who is uncontrollable.18

Further the Planning Commission of India in the 10th Five year plan has brought all these children under a common category called as — “children in difficult circumstances” and included under this category are street children, abandoned children, orphaned children, child laborers, children who have been physically or sexually abused, children in conflict with law, children with HIV/AIDS, children of terminally ill parents, children of parents serving prison terms, children victims of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, immigration etc, for the purpose of devising need based policies and welfare programmers.19


The estimated number of orphans who need care and protection in India would give a better perspective of the magnitude of the problem on our hands .Though the exact quantum of dependent children is not known, approximations are available.

In India 31 million children have become orphans due to all causes as by 2009.2 Every 2.2 seconds a child loses a parent somewhere in the world. By 2015, It is projected that there will be 400 million orphaned children worldwide.20

Moreover, it would be difficult to estimate the number of children who are abandoned, neglected, deprived of parental or family care due to innumerable other reasons such as family feud, parental desertion, illegitimate pregnancy, natural disasters.




A large proportion of delinquent and neglected children come from broken homes. Desertion, divorce, illegitimacy, cruelty, drunkenness and drug abuse by the parents are some of the common denominators among the neglected children.21

Broken Home is one which is rendered incomplete by the absence of one or both parents Parental separation or divorce often have an altogether different aspect where in the child is presented with a conflict of loyalties which is sometimes played upon usually by the contesting parents introduces new problem of adjusting to step parents and their attitudes.22

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There is also a type of home which is thoroughly noxious without being ‘broken’. The members of the family go on living together, a life punctuated by quarrels, hatred, brutality, alcoholism, irresponsibility etc and emotional turmoil resulting from domestic discord, parental neglect or rejection may drive the child to retaliatory aggression.23

Ganga et al in their study of 225 inmates of an orphanage in Thanjavur documented that in 43.5% of the children, father had more than one wife, and father had left home in 14.6% while mother had left in 12.9%.24 Manjushree and Srinivasan noticed that of the 73 neglected children, in 8 children frequent quarrels between father and mother was observed.25 Thilagaraj in his study of neglected children documented that 37.5% of the parents were unhappily adjusted, parental separation/ desertion was seen in 12.6%. In 10% each, either both the parents had died or one parent had died and there was remarriage or there was no remarriage.26 Singh and co-workers while studying parental image in delinquents observed that in all cases of their study sample, parents had cordial and harmonious relationship.27


The presence of a human figure is essential to develop social responsiveness. Because, if the child is constantly exposed to inanimate means of stimulation, the feelings of attachments to inanimate objects might generalize to human figure.28

The effects of long-term or permanent separation form one or both parents are complex. When the separation occurs as early as three months after birth, the infant’s emotional upset seems to be primarily a reaction to the environmental change and strangeness, and he /she usually adapts readily to a surrogate mother-figure. But once attachment behavior has developed, the emotional hurt of separation may be deeper and more sustained. The child may go through a period of bereavement and have greater difficulty in adjusting to the change. It would appear that the age at which the infant is most vulnerable to long term separation or loss is from 7 months to 5 years.

The long term consequences of such a loss appear to depend not only on the time of its occurrence, but also on factors such as the child in question, his previous relationship with parent and the quality of subsequent parental care.29


In a pioneering study, Bowlby (1960) summarized the effects of maternal separation on children from 2 to 5 years of age who were hospitalized for prolonged periods.

He cited three stages of their separation reaction:

1) Initial protest characterized by increased crying, screaming and general activity

2) Despair which included dejection, stupor, decreased activity and general withdrawal from the environment, and

3) Detachment following the children’s discharge from the hospital and re¬union with their mothers in whom the children appeared indifferent and sometimes even hostile towards their parents.30

According to Howells separation and deprivation are not synonymous terms. He states that “separation” of the child and parent, means that the child is physically parted from its parents and has an existence independent of them. On the other hand, ‘deprivation’ is a term which indicates that a loss is suffered, and when applied to the child, it is used in the following two senses:

1) Occasionally it is used to denote that the child suffers the loss of its parents, or permanent parent substitute. This usually coincides with physical separation of parent and child (to prevent confusion with the term ‘separation’ the usage deprivation should be avoided).

2) Frequently it is used to denote that the child is deprived of the necessary care for its emotional growth and so suffers the loss of parenting

“Separation“, then involves the physical absence of the parent, but not necessarily of parenting. “Deprivation” involves the loss of parenting but not necessarily of parents. Thereby, he has drawn a distinction between parents as an entity from parenting, that is, the emotional care given by them to the children.31

Bowlby comments that “in the young child’s eyes father plays second fiddle, but is of an indirect value as an economic and emotional support to the mother.30 True enough, this is the impression carried over by the social, psychological and psychiatric literature. The facts however may be different. The father may share parenting, often equally, sometimes pre-dominantly and sometimes subordinately. Few facts are available.

Nevertheless, the available literature indicates that the father has an important role to play in maintaining the stability of the family group and in supporting the role of the mother. He has also a significant influence on the psychological development of boys and girls.

The father’s masculine model (aggressiveness, leadership and objectivity) is necessary for the boy if he is to emancipate himself from the feminine model prevailing at home and develop the qualities of maleness that will make him acceptable to his peers.32

The various causes for parental loss described in the various studies, parental deaths due to a number of causes, outnumber all other causes. Fosteer G and colleagues in their study observed that 12.8% of children under 15 years old had a father or mother who had died; 5% of orphans had lost both parents.33 Bhagath and Fraser in their study on neglected children found that paternal death was discovered in 40% whereas maternal loss was seen in 15%.34 Presley et at reported parental loss in 49. 2% of 140 neglected children, with 21% maternal loss and 25% had lost both the parents.35 Approximately 23% entering the foster care in the United States of America have lost one or both the parents in a survey carried out by Simms M D et al.36


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Content relating to: "bereavement"

Bereavement, also known as grief, is the reaction to loss, which might have been aroused through the loss of someone or something that one has established a bond with. Death of friend, family member, or companion can activate grief and this is common to human experience.

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