Caring for our children

If you look at the ethnographic accounts of band-level hunter-gatherer in Africa or Melanesia—though I’m not sure I can say this for South America—what jumps out at you is the indulgence towards children. Child abuse would not have been tolerated. Other group members would have intervened, the perpetrators socially ostracized, possibly even expelled from the group if they harmed a child. It was not acceptable. We don’t have this same sensibility today for a number of reasons. I think we have an epidemic of emotional neglect of children today that has gone completely unrecognized.

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Raising Darwin’s Consciousness: Sarah Blaffer Hrdy on the Evolutionary Lessons of Motherhood. Scientific American. 2012.
Children who do not have the stimulus and the response of a loving primary carer often show many deficiencies. Nothing shows this more horrifyingly than the extreme example of the brain scans of some Romanian orphans who have had no mothering at all. These children’s scans show large gaps where their brains have failed to develop. Work done on examining the brains of less severely deprived small children shows up specific difficulties that come from a failure of brain development in the very early years (See for example Schore, 1994; Siegel, 2001.) These tend to leave such children unable to fully comprehend how others feel. They also tend to overreact to stressful situations and to respond to threatening situations by withdrawing. (Woodward, Joan. Attachment and Human Survival. 2004. p18)

Schore, A. N. (1994). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Siegel, D. J. (2001). Toward an interpersonal neurobiology of the developing mind: attachment relationships, “mindsight” and neural integration. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1-2):67-94.

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