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", he would be more accurately characterized as the father of modern child psychiatry.
Rutter'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" 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.
He has published over 40 books including 'Maternal Deprivation Reassessed' (1972) which New Society describes as 'A classic in the field of child care'. In this work he re-evaluated the theory of Maternal Deprivation which had been developed by Dr John Bowlby in 1951. Bowlby had proposed that "the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment" and that not to do so may have significant and irreversible mental health consequences. He described this as the process of 'monotropy'. This theory was both influential and controversial. Rutter highlighted the complexity of separation and suggested that anti-social behaviour was not linked to Maternal Deprivation and that fathers can be equally as important as mothers even to small children.
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.
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. The citation for his knighthood reads: Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London.
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