The Theoretical and Practical
Issues in Attachment and Neglect
The Case of Very Low Birth Weight Infants
Gill Watson and Julie Taylor
I couldn't really see his face because of the eye pads on and erm…his little
body was covered in all these tubes, so I couldn't really see him very well…
what a mass of wires, ha, an absolute mass of wires and he was in bubble wrap.
I was just, erm, just amazement…it was quite dark as well and he looked sore,
so red and sore, I was scared to touch 'cause he looked so sore.
(Mother of very low birth weight infant, Scotland, 2003)
Usually babies are born weighing around 3200g (7lbs). If they arrive earlier than expected, and/or if there have been ante-natal complications, they may be born weighing very much less than this, putting them at risk from a whole gamut of biological, social and developmental challenges. Very low birth weight (VLBW) infants are those who are born, usually preterm, weighing less than 1500g – less than half the weight expected. It is this group of infants in particular whose defencelessness affords a potential for child neglect. Our argument explores the pluralistic nature of this vulnerability, a kind of 'double whammy': not only do the circumstances and consequences of being born with a very low birth weight provide a potential for neglect, but also the antecedents of VLBW may in and of themselves also have associations with neglect.
Issues of neglect within the very low birth weight population have received little recent attention. Over the past thirty years changes in medical technology, combined with clinical developments, have led to the increasing survival of preterm, very low birth weight infants born at the lower extremes of pre-