The Emperor never received an answer to the debate. Despite having all their physical needs pampered to, one by one the babies started to die. None survived long enough to speak anything. (Story in Lewis, Amini & Lannon, 2000) Sadly, similar natural experiments have since shown similar results. As early as the 1900s in New York, more than 50% of all babies taken to baby drops outside of Catholic Nurseries died before their first birthday because of a lack of contact with nurturing caregivers. (Bernstein, 2001, p. 256) Similar outcomes were observed in Romanian orphanages, or other institutions where affectionate care is lacking. (Chugani et al., 2001; Chrisholm, Carter, Ames & Morrison, 1995; Spitz & Wolf, 1946)
Babies raised by their mothers in penal institutions during their first year of life do better than those reared in a hospital who receive significantly less personal attention. "The foundling babies, missing physical and emotional bonding, became easily ill or had skin diseases such as eczema and showed key development lags in their capacity to move and to speak," writes psychologist Suzie Orbach. "Although they were kept physically clean and warm and were fed nutritious food, once the months of breastfeeding (provided by wet nurses) had ceased, their physical and mental aliveness took a downturn, with appalling consequences for their development." (Orbach, 2009, p. 47)
In modern day Russian orphanages, children 3 and under lose an average of one IQ point for every month spent inside these institutions, a result of the damage done to a child's brain by disruptions in attachment and lack of intimate affection. (Pickert, 2010) In the worst institutional environments, workers describe zombie-like toddlers who sit alone, rocking back and forth, staring blankly or banging their head against walls. MRI scans of adopted 9-year-olds conducted by psychologist Nim Tottenham found that children who were adopted later and spent more time in institutionalized care had enlarged amygdalae and performed worse on emotional tests. (Kluger, 2011) And other research finds that maternally orphaned children have much higher child mortality rates, dying at a rate 3 to 4 times that of their peers. (Gertler et al., 2004) Since these children have other caretakers to fall back on it's not the 50% mortality rate seen in severely neglected babies, but it shows that disruptions in attachment can be so profound that they have a measurable impact on whether a child lives or dies.
It turns out that love and attachment with caregivers is just as important as food & water, more important than shelter or clothing, more important in the long run than any other thing a child could need. Without attachment, a child won't survive. When attachment is lacking or injured, it creates major deficiencies.