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Anaclitic Depression


Abandonment; Depressive disorder; Hospitalism; Infant depression


The physical, social–emotional, and intellectual impairment of an infant’s development due to the separation from its mother or primary caregiver.


Anaclitic depression is a term used to describe the transient depressed state of infants after their separation from a mothering figure. This term has been used in research with human infants and animal infants, ranging from experiments with nonhuman primates to studies with guinea pigs and rats. Symptoms are similar but can vary slightly by species and by the individual mother–infant relationships preseparation. While most studies agree that the effects of anaclitic depression are short-lived, disappearing after the mother–infant reunion, few studies have examined potential long-term behavioral effects.

Origins of Anaclitic Depression

Anaclitic depression was first described in a 1945 journal article titled “Hospitalism” by René Spitz. Spitz...

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Correspondence to Sarah E. Maylott .

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Maylott, S.E. (2017). Anaclitic Depression. In: Vonk, J., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham.

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