Monthly Archives: March 2012

Lying and Other Developmental Issues

Traditional childrearing methods often focus on blaming a child for undesirable behaviors and punishing the child to end those behaviors. One of those behaviors is lying. Whether by “whooping”, spanking, yelling, or the more “evolved” versions of “time-outs” or taking away privileges and possessions, parents have often equated punishment with discipline.

There is another way. There are those who see behaviors in a larger developmental and environmental context. They recognize that certain behaviors are natural for certain aged children, such as the widely recognized tantrums of the “terrible twos”.

The terrible two tantrums are a good illustration of this point. As some of you know, the reason two year-olds tend to tantrum is that this is the age when they reach a stage in their development when they recognize their own selves as independent from their environment. They suddenly sense their power to make choices and to have opinions. This reflects itself in what an adult could view as contrariness. It’s not bad contrariness. It’s good, healthy, and appropriate contrariness.

Nonetheless, looking at the statistics, multitudes of parents see this behavior as something they have to correct through spanking or other punishment. That’s the way their parents raised them, and they also react instinctively believing it is their job as parents to show the child this is wrong by punishing the child to end the behavior. They believe that if they don’t, the child will turn out delinquent.

Studies show otherwise. It is children who are spanked who have more behavior problems as they grow.

The fact is that a number of behaviors which we consider wrong, such as lying, are often developmentally natural and require understanding. As children grow, if their parents react to their culturally undesireable behaviors with love, rather than punishment, the behaviors dissipate as the child naturally develops to a new stage of growth.

Additionally, it is sometimes not only development that is behind negative behaviors. Sometimes, the behaviors reflect struggles the children are experiencing in their own lives and families. As one example, if their parents frequently fight, the children will react to the stress.

On these points, please see this very informative and itneresting article about lying and appropriate parenting by Rita Brhel: Responding to Lying Positively, The Attached Family, March 23, 2012, Attachment Parenting International.

Childhood Adversity Causes Increased Risk of Psychopathology & Stress Disorders

At the cutting edge of modern research is a field called epigenetics. Epigenetics describes the environment’s effect on our genes.

Scientists have shown that genes behave based on signatures imprinted on them through environmental influences. Sometimes, the signatures can be passed down through the generations together with the genes.

In a recent study, researchers showed that childhood mistreatment can lead to epigenetic modifications of the human GR gene. Changes to this gene can impact stress reactivity and psychopathology. Thus, the study essentially links childhood trauma and mistreatment with psychological disorders and conditions throughout life.

It’s exciting to see technology assisting modern research in discovering new information about the human body with the aims of improving quality of life.
Check out the text of the report:

KONY 2012

Busy with my daily life the last couple of days, only today did I learn about the viral campaign Kony 2012. Despite the criticisms leveled at the video and the nonprofit Invisible Children since it was released, this video has obviously had a wide-ranging impact. It’s hard to argue with the goal of the protection of exploited children from a terrible villain. Some have claimed that the video is somewhat factually misleading, in part because Kony’s group has already moved out of Uganda while the goal appears to be to support the Ugandan government in hunting down and arresting Kony. Addtionally, people view the Ugandan government itself as corrupt and guilty of exploitative practices; thus they see the move for the U.S. to give them support as problematic. The nonprofit Invisible Children has also been accused of problematic practices with respect to its fund allocation. What I find moving at first glance, however, is the apparent positive intention behind the creation of the video and the impressive marketing techniques used by the Invisible Children organization. Uploaded only 4 days ago, it has already been viewed over 58 million times on YouTube.

In the event you have not yet seen it, here is the link to the video: KONY 2012

More Proof that Childhood Mistreatment Leads to Lasting Brain Damage

A recent study out of Harvard University has provided more proof that childhood mistreatment causes damage to key parts of the brain. The study, conducted by Dr. Martin Teicher and colleagues, used MRI technology to show that the the hippocampi were reduced in volume in the brains of those who underwent adverse childhood experiences and childhood mistreatment. Such volume reductions particularly focused on the left side of the brain.

Damage to the hippocampus is associated with a number of psychiatric disorders including depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, schizophrenia, and Dissociative Identity Disorder, among others. The hippocampus also controls memory and other essential brain functions.

Here is the academic citation for the article: Martin H. Teicher, Carl M. Anderson, and Ann Polcari, PNAS Plus: Childhood maltreatment is associated with reduced volume in the hippocampal subfields CA3, dentate gyrus, and subiculum, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2012 109 (9) E563-E563-E572; published ahead of print February 13, 2012.

A number of studies in recent years have been using modern technologies such as MRI and fMRI to scan brain structure and function and to demostrate that childhood trauma leads to lasting brain abnormalities. I find it interesting that modern technology is helping in the fight against child abuse and mistreatment.