Monthly Archives: July 2010

Researchers Find Link Between Domestic Violence and Childhood Obesity

According to a recently published study conducted by Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, of Boston University, and colleagues, children whose mothers are subject to chronic violence are 1.8 times more likely to become obese.

In this study, researchers analyzed 1595 children born between 1998 and 2000, with degrees of violence reported by mothers. The likelihood of obesity at age 5 was greater for those children whose mothers reported chronic violence in the home.

This research adds important insight both on the subject of obesity prevention and on the discourse on violence prevention. Researchers have already found links between adverse childhood experiences and health problems in adulthood. Previous studies have also linked domestic violence in childhood home with altered neuroendocrine system profiles, impaired socioemotional development, cognitive functioning, attachment to caregivers, emotional regulation, and poorer physical and mental health. This study adds further support on these subjects.

A violent unsettled home leads to changes in brain functioning, the disruption of metabolic systems and hormonal changes. These in turn can lead to obesity.

Many in our culture see obesity as an isolated issue, yet others wonder why despite attempts at dieting and calorie-counting, they are unable to maintain the healthy lean body type some seem able to attain so much more easily.

In fact, emotional issues grounded in childhood seem to be at the heart of many physical ailments, not simply making a person emotionally less able to maintain a healthy diet, but also negatively impacting body chemistry and brain composition. In fact, a groundbreaking adverse childhood experiences study by Dr. Vincent Felitti in the 1980’s, which connected adverse childhood experiences with multiple problems in adulthood, accidentally originated out of a weight loss study at Kaiser Permanente.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva proposes ban on spanking

President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (right).

Kudos to Brazil’s President, an inspiring individual and one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People for 2010, for referring a bill to the Brazilian Congress banning corporal punishment of children by parents.

The bill prohibits “cruel or degrading treatment that humiliates or seriously threatens children, including spanking”. (See BBCNews, Brazil president seeks legal ban on smacking, July 15, 2010.)

President Da Silva, popularly known as Lula, explained to critics that spanking is not necessary to discipline children and that it is more effective to talk to children and discipline them verbally. He refers to himself as someone with personal understanding of these issues, having been brought up my a poor mother with eight children who never struck any of her children. He feels fortunate and followed his mother’s example with his own children.

“If punishment and whipping solved things, we wouldn’t have so much corruption or banditry in this country,” he said.

If this bill is passed in Congress, Brazil would follow twenty other countries which have explicitly banned corporal punishment by parents.

See article at BBC News, Brazil president seeks legal ban on smacking, July 15, 2010.

Father Tosses Toddler Into Traffic; Mother Defends Him

A 21-year old Oakland man shook his 18 month old daughter and threw her into traffic, according to an undercover police officer who saw it happen. 

The incident occurred on Fifth Avenue near East 15th Street in Oakland around 5:39 p.m. Saturday. A Volkswagen Jetta almost hit the toddler, police say, and the car’s undercarriage burned and scraped the girl.

Later identified as John Taylor, the man then ran off, pounding on and kicking cars along the way. The police and motorists in the neighborhood chased him down and he was arrested for willful cruelty to a child, vandalism, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.

The little girl, Jayla, lives with her mother and was visiting with her father that day.

The strangest thing about this story is the mother’s reaction. Apparently, she believes the father was trying to protect the child. In an interview with NBC Bay Area, she said:

“I’m hurting now because I know my baby’s father is in jail facing charges and I don’t feel that it is reasonable. Anybody who feels that they think that John had thrown the baby out, please get that out your mind — there is no reason to believe that. He is a great father to her.”

See interview at NBC Bay Area: Dad Tosses Tot Into Traffic: Cops, Jessica Greene, Mon. July 12, 2010.

Child abuse changes victims’ DNA

Many people believe that if a child is too young to remember wrongs done to the child, that it doesn’t matter. A number of them harm innocent children and babies in misguided attempts to relieve their own pain.

However, many recent studies have led to significant new evidence showing that a child’s brain and body are damaged for life when that child is mistreated, even where the mistreatment happened when the child was too young to remember it.

Here is a brief article about a recent study showing that childhood abuse damages the DNA of the victim and leads to difficulties in stress regulation due to actual physiological damage in the body.

Mother’s touch can improve cognitive function and stress resilience

Previously posted on

A new study out of U.C. Irvine by neurologist Dr. Tallie Z. Baram has found that caressing and other sensory input triggers activity in a baby’s developing brain that improves cognitive function and builds resilience to stress.

In a study published earlier this year in The Journal of Neuroscience, Baram and colleagues identified how sensory stimuli from maternal care can modify genes that control a key messenger of stress called corticotropin-releasing hormone.

Dr. Baram’s earlier work has shown that excessive amounts of CRH in the brain’s primary learning and memory center led to the disintegration of dendritic spines, branchlike structures on neurons. Dendritic spines facilitate the sending and receiving of messages among brain cells and the collection and storage of memories.

“Communication among brain cells is the foundation of cognitive processes such as learning and memory,” says Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Sciences. “In several brain disorders where learning and similar thought processes are abnormal, dendritic spines have been found to be reduced in density or poorly developed.

“Because an infant’s brain is still building connections in these communication zones, large blasts or long-term amounts of stress can permanently limit full development, increasing the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia later in life.”

Essentially, Dr. Baram and her colleague’s work stands for the proposition that a human brain is fundamentally influenced by the environment early in life, especially by maternal care.

See story at

Laws against hitting children

Previously posted on

Take a look at this list of countries where all corporal punishment against children, including in the home, is now legally prohibited:

Sweden (1979)
Finland (1983)
Norway (1987)
Austria (1989)
Cyprus (1994)
Denmark (1997)
Latvia (1998)
Croatia (1999)
Germany (2000)
Israel (2000)
Bulgaria (2000)
Iceland (2003)
Romania (2004)
Ukraine (2004)
Hungary (2005)
Greece (2006)
Spain (2007)
Venezuela (2007)
Uruguay (2007)
Portugal (2007)
New Zealand (2007)
Netherlands (2007)
Republic of Moldova (2008)
Costa Rica (2008)

In addition, in Italy in 1996 the Supreme Court in Rome declared all corporal punishment to be unlawful; this is not yet confirmed in legislation.

In Nepal in 2005, the Supreme Court declared null and void the legal defense in the Child Act allowing parents, guardians and teachers to administer a “minor beating”; the Child Act is yet to be amended to confirm this.

Do you notice a country that is noticeably absent from the list?

A number of countries, some motivated in part by the UN’s convention and resolution protecting the rights of children, have taken the important step of legally standing behind child protection. This is clearly a step forward in the advancement of civilization.

In fact, the UN Study on Violence Against Children set a goal of universal abolition of corporal punishment against children as 2009. As of March 2009, the count of countries with full abolition was 24. The prohibition is being added by further states at a fast rate.

Here is a statement made at a discussion of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child:

As for corporal punishment, few countries have clear laws on this question. Certain States have tried to distinguish between the correction of children and excessive violence. In reality the dividing line between the two is artificial. It is very easy to pass from one stage to the other. It is also a question of principle. If it is not permissible to beat an adult, why should it be permissible to do so to a child? One of the contributions of the Convention is to call attention to the contradictions in our attitudes and cultures.” Concluding statement to Committee on the Rights of the Child General Discussion on Children’s Rights in the Family, October 1994.

In America, suggestions to legally prohibit hitting children are rarely well-received. A recent attempt at a limited watered-down ban on corporal punishment (only on children under 4) in California was angrily received as well as ridiculed by many and shot down. (See Spanking Still Legal in California, Feb. 24, 2007, by Eric Fleming.)

Why are Americans so hell bent on protecting the rights of parents to hit children?

How about this:

“Consider the injustice of hitting children. We hit in order to inflict pain. The law does not permit us to inflict pain on anyone other than our children. Floggings of prisoners and in the armed services, the beating of wives and servants are part of an unwanted brutal past. Our laws prohibit us from inflicting pain on animals. Why our children?” Ian Hassall, New Zealand Commissioner for Children, 1993.