our news services about a baby boy found after being deliberately dropped down a drain. It is one of those horrific and incomprehensible stories that cause people to ask "How could anyone do that?"
I don't know the answer to that. I don't think anyone knows the answer to that. I don't even think the person who does such a thing knows how they managed to do it.
Like most students of behavioural psychology I was taught about the theories of John Bowlby concerning "Attachment and Loss" - the notion that children are born with an innate need to attach to one individual and that they should receive almost all their care from this individual for the first two years of their life.
Bowlby believed that the consequences of maternal deprivation were possible increased risk of delinquency, depression, aggressive behaviours and reduced intelligence. Even short term separation is seen as leading to anxiety.
Bowlby's theories led to the belief that mothers and babies should be kept together. It led to a reduction in the number of babies available for adoption. It makes assumptions about mothering.
I wonder about this.
I don't have any children of my own. I have two godchildren, one is now an "adult" but the other is still at school and will be for some years. I also try to be there for the Whirlwind who is growing up without a mother but does have a very strong attachment to her father - and yes, she had normal mothering for the first two years of her life.
Am I protective of those children? Yes. I'd be the same for the Little Drummer Boy who lives next door - and for his brother. I think I would be protective of any child - whether I knew them or not. For me, it is just something I'd do because it would be the right thing to do.
But I wonder about Bowlby's theories and the way we allow babies to be put into extended day care from as young as six weeks and certainly after three or six months - long before the two years which Bowlby claimed were the formative period. I also wonder at the way in which women who want to give up a child for adoption or say they don't want a child are encouraged, indeed told, they must keep the child. They are told it is "better" for the child. Is it really?
I know people who have children who did not want them. They never intended to have children. The precautions they took did not work - or they failed to take them. Yes, some of them have learned to love their children and the bonds are close. Others have resented the presence of children in their lives and pushed them from the nest at the earliest possible moment. They have never managed to learn to love their children even while making sure they are well cared for and providing for all their physical needs.
I wonder what will happen to the mother who has, allegedly, dropped her child down the drown. She is, if the media is to be believed, to be charged with attempted murder. It's a serious charge and her mental state will be the deciding factor. Quite likely she will be found to have a serious form of post-natal depression. She will be treated for it and the child will be returned to her care in the belief that, because they share some of the same genes, there is strong biological bond between them.
People will say this is the best thing for the mother and the baby. But, I wonder about this. Is it really the best thing for the baby? Is it possible that some people simply don't love the children they have brought into this world? What's best, to be brought up by a natural parent who does not love you or to be brought up by adoptive parents who wanted you?
I know that every relationship is different and that there is no single answer. But, in a case like this, I worry about the baby. It seems to be such a complete case of rejection - and I suspect a baby can sense that.
I hope I'm wrong.