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For the motorcycle racer, see Michael Rutter (motorcycle racer)

Professor Sir Michael Rutter (born 1933) is the first consultant of child psychiatry in the United Kingdom. He has been described as the "father of child psychology"[1]. Currently he is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London and consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, a post he has held since 1966.


Rutter set up the Medical Research Council (UK) Child Psychiatry Research Unit in 1984 and the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre 10 years later, being honorary director of both until October 1998. He was Deputy Chairman of the Wellcome Trust from 1999 to 2004, and has been a Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation since 1992.

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 and 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. 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].

He has published over 400 scientific papers and chapters and some 40 books. He was the European Editor for Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from 1974 till 1994.

Children playing

In 1972 Rutter published 'Maternal Deprivation Reassessed',[4] which New Society describes as "a classic in the field of child care".[4] in which he evaluated the maternal deprivation hypothesis propounded by Dr John Bowlby in 1951.[5]. 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. This theory was both influential and controversial. Rutter made a significant contribution, his 1981 monograph and other papers (Rutter 1972; Rutter 1979) comprising the definitive empirical evaluation and update of Bowlby's early work on maternal deprivation. He amassed further evidence, addressed the many different underlying social and psychological mechanisms and showed that Bowlby was only partially right and often for the wrong reasons. Rutter highlighted the other forms of deprivation found in institutional care, the complexity of separation distress and suggested that anti-social behaviour was not linked to maternal deprivation as such but to family discord. The importance of these refinements of the maternal deprivation hypothesis was to reposition it as a "vulnerability factor" rather than a causative agent, with a number of varied influences determining which path a child will take.[6][4]

After the end of the Ceasescu regime in Romania in 1989, Rutter led the English and Romanian Adoptees Study Team, following many of the orphans adopted into Western families into their teens in a series of substantial studies on the effects of early privation and deprivation across multiple domains affecting child development including attachment and the development of new relationships. The results yielded some reason for optimism.[7]

Awards and honors

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.


  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. ^ a b c Rutter, M (1981) Maternal Deprivation Reassessed, Second edition, Harmondsworth, Penguin.
  5. ^ Bowlby, J (1951) Maternal Care and Mental Health, World Health Organisation WHO
  6. ^ Holmes J. (1993) John Bowlby & Attachment Theory. Routledge. pp. 49-53. ISBN 0-415-07729-X
  7. ^ Rutter, M (Jan/Feb 2002). "Nature, nurture, and development: From evangelism through science toward policy and practice". Child Development 73 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00388. ISSN 0009-3920. PMID 14717240.  


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