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Michael Rutter

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Professor Sir Michael Rutter (born 1933) is the first consultant of child psychiatry in the United Kingdom. Although he has been described as the "father of child psychology"[1], he would be more accurately characterized as the father of modern child psychiatry.

Professor Sir Michael’s work includes: early epidemiologic studies (Isle of Wight and Inner London); studies of autism involving a wide range of scientific techniques and disciplines, including DNA study and neuroimaging; links between research and practice; deprivation; influences of families and schools; genetics; reading disorders; biological, social protective, and risk factors; interactions of biological and social factors; stress; longitudinal as well as epidemiologic studies, including childhood and adult experiences and conditions; and continuities and discontinuities in normal and pathological development. The British Journal of Psychiatry credits him with a number of "breakthroughs"[2] in these areas and Professor Sir Michael Rutter is also recognized as contributing centrally to the establishment of child psychiatry as a medical and biopsychosocial specialty with a solid scientific base.[3]


Children playing

He has published over 40 books including 'Maternal Deprivation Reassessed' (1972)[4] which New Society describes as 'A classic in the field of child care'. In this work he qualified the theory of Maternal Deprivation which had been developed by Dr John Bowlby and expressed for popular consumption in 'Maternal Care and Mental Health' (1951)[5] and 'Child Care and the Growth of Love' (1953). That theory was that children were damaged by separation from their mother or mother figure. Professor Sir Michael Rutter pointed out that children were not invariably so damaged and that, in any event, other people, including their fathers, are also very important to children. According to Schaffer in 'Social Development' (2000)[6] it is now generally accepted that social convention accounts for whatever differences are observed amongst mothers and fathers.

Professor Sir Michael Rutter has honorary degrees from the Universities of Leiden, Louvain, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Chicago, Minnesota, Ghent, Jyväskylä, Warwick, East Anglia and Cambridge. He has remained in practice until late into his career and the Michael Rutter Centre for Children and Adolescents, based at Maudsley Hospital, London, is named after him.

Professor Sir Michael Rutter is an honorary member of the British Academy and is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society. He is a Founding Fellow of the Academia Europaea and the Academy of Medical Sciences and was knighted in 1992.

Significant differences between Maternal Deprivation and the Attachment Theory

Adapted from 'Clinical Implications of Attachment Concepts: Retrospect and Prospect' (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Volume. 36 No 4, p551, 1995) by Professor Sir Michael Rutter.

(1) The abandonment of the notion of monotropy. Bowlby's early writings were widely understood to mean that there was a biological need to develop a selective attachment with just one person.

(2) It came to be appreciated that social development was affected by later as well as earlier relationships.

(3) Early accounts emphasized the need for selective attachments to develop during a relatively brief sensitivity period with the implication that even good parenting that is provided after that watershed is too late.

(4) Bowlby drew parallels between the development of attachments and imprinting. It became apparent that there were more differences than similarities and this comparison was dropped later on and is no longer seen as helpful by most writers on attachment.


  1. Pearce, J (2005). Eric Taylor: The cheerful pessimist. Child and Adolescent Mental Health,Feb;10(1):40–41.[1]
  2. Kolvin, I (1999). The contribution of Michael Rutter. British Journal of Psychiatry, Jun;174:471-475.
  3. Hartman, L (2003). Review of Green & Yule, Research and Innovation on the Road to Modern Child Psychiatry. Am J Psychiatry, Jan;160:196-197.[2]
  4. Rutter (1981) Maternal Deprivation Reassessed, Second edition, Harmondsworth, Penguin.
  5. Bowlby, J (1951) Maternal Care and Mental Health, World Health Organisation WHO
  6. Schaffer (2000) Social Development, Oxford, Blackwell

External links

See also


  • Rutter, M. (1981) Maternal Deprivation Reassessed, 2nd edn, Harmondsworth: Penguin

Book Chapters


  • Rutter, M. (1979) Maternal deprivation 1972-1978: new findings, new concepts, new approaches, Child Development 50: 283-305.

Further reading

  • Green, J & Yule, W (2001) Research and Innovation on the Road to Modern Child Psychiatry.Volume 1. Festschrift for Professor Sir Michael Rutter. London:Gaskell.

ISBN 1901242625 , ISBN 1901242

  • Taylor, E & Green, J (2001) Research and Innovation on the Road to Modern Child Psychiatry. Volume 2: Classic Papers by Professor Sir Michael Rutter ISBN 1901242633

ISBN 9781901242638

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