Some notes on Attachment and “Childhood Fears”, compiled by Moira Eastman

A response to our previous post on “The Fear of the Dark” in children… see the following link…

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/the-fear-of-the-dark-by-john-cowan/

 

I must admit that I have a different understanding of children’s fear of the dark.

When I was a child–I was born in 1940 in Australia–the Second World War had started, and one of my earliest memories is that I KNEW that, after dark, Japanese soldiers–the enemy– were behind the garage. We had an outside toilet, built on to the end of the garage. I was terrified to go outside to the toilet at night. I’m amazed that no-one ever asked me what I was afraid of or why I was afraid. they thought my fear was irrational

But my understanding of these ‘irrational fears’ of childhood has been altered by my understanding of attachment theory.

I am posting some notes on my current understanding of children’s fear of the dark.

Bowlby on the attachment behavioural system

‘Once we postulate the presence within the organism of an attachment behavioural system regarded as the product of evolution and having protection as its biological function, many of the puzzles that have perplexed students of human relationships are found to be soluble. . . An urge to keep proximity or accessibility to someone seen as stronger and wiser, and who if responsive is deeply loved, comes to be recognised as an integral part of human nature and as having a vital role to play in life. Not only does its effective operation bring with it a strong feeling of security and contentment, but its temporary or long-term frustration causes acute or chronic anxiety and discontent. When seen in this light, the urge to keep proximity is to be respected, valued, and nurtured as making for potential strength, instead of being looked down upon, as so often hitherto, as a sign of inherent weakness. (Bowlby, 1991, p. 293 of postscript to Attachment Across the Life Cycle)

Attachment involves four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour

[57] ‘Bowlby (1982) defined attachment in terms of four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour: proximity maintenance, safe haven, separation distress, and secure base. These behaviours are readily observable in 1-year-old infants in relation to their primary caregivers (usually mothers). The infant continuously monitors the caregiver’s wherabouts and makes any adjustments necessary for maintaining the desired degree of proximity, retreats to her as a haven of safety in the event of a perceived threat, is actively resistant to and distressed by separations from her, and uses her as a base of security from which to explore the environment. Infants often direct one of more of these behaviours toward individuals to whom they are not attached. Importantly, it is the selective orientation of all these behaviours toward a specific individual that defines attachment. (From Hazan et al. 2004) .

Infant attachment behaviours: behaviours that maintain proximity to the mother

Bowlby noted that infants all around the globe manifest five behaviours that help keep the mother and infant together. They are: crying, sucking, clinging, following and smiling. The first four are also common to other primates. Only chimpanzee infants also smile.

What turns on attachment behaviours? Clues to an increase in danger

There are natural clues to an increase in danger. Infants have evolved to recognise these clues. They do not have to learn them from experience. They are:

  • darkness,
  • being alone,
  • separation from the mother,
  • sudden loud noises,
  • looming figures,
  • unfamiliar environment,
  • the presence of strangers,
  • change in temperature,
  • being sick.

In the past, children’s responses to some of these clues (or cues) to danger—such as fear of the dark—have been considered to be the ‘irrational fears of childhood’. But in hunter-gatherer societies they were clues to increased danger and this increased danger provokes attachment behaviour in the infant and therefore the need to be close to the mother or mothering person.

  • Function. ‘Many aspects of infant and child behaviour and mother-infant interaction seem irrelevant to the modern world, and can only be understood in terms of the evolution of humans in an environment very different from the modern city.’

These fears used to be seen as ‘the irrational fears of childhood’. They make sense only when seen as functional in the environments in which humans evolved.

The environment of evolutionary adaptedness

‘The environment of evolutionary adaptedness’ refers to the environment to which the human species has become adapted through evolution: that is an environment similar to that in which current day hunter-gatherer societies live.

The solution to fear of the dark

Bowlby discovered that the only thing that can ‘terminate’ attachment behaviour such as fear of the dark is closeness to the attachment figure.  So what is required is not explanations to a young child about how there is nothing to fear, but be close, be available.  This is what removes his/her fear.

 

 

Moira Eastman has her own website, essentialmother.com  and is particularly interested in attachment.    Moira works at Mothering Business and studied Sociology of education at Monash University, Melbourne.

She is a member of the group “Mothers at Home Matter”, a UK based group.  “Mothers at Home Matter”  – PO Box 43690 London SE22 9WN
www.mothersathomematter.co.uk – is about redefining values, re-honouring the name “mother” and highlighting children’s developmental needs. It is about understanding the impact of economic forces on the family – mothers and fathers – and campaigning for change. The full aims of the organisation are on their website (see address above). “Mother at Home Matter” are not affiliated to any political party or faith group.

 

“Do what it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life”: Supporting Hagar International, by Deirdre Dobson-Le

Simplifying Childhood may protect against Mental Health issues, by Tracy Gillett

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When my Dad was growing up he had one jumper each winter. One. Total.

He remembers how vigilantly he cared for his jumper. If the elbows got holes in them my Grandma patched them back together. If he lost his jumper he’d recount his steps to find it again. He guarded it like the precious gift it was.

He had everything he needed and not a lot more. The only rule was to be home by dinner time. My Grandma rarely knew exactly where her kids were.

They were off building forts, making bows and arrows, collecting bruises and bloody knees and having the time of their lives. They were immersed in childhood.

But the world has moved on since then. We’ve become more sophisticated. And entered a unique period in which, rather than struggling to provide enough parents are unable to resist providing too much. In doing so, we’re unknowingly creating an environment in which mental health issues flourish.

When I read Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting one message leapt off the page. Normal personality quirks combined with the stress of “too much” can propel children into the realm of disorder. A child who is systematic may be pushed into obsessive behaviours. A dreamy child may lose the ability to focus.

Payne conducted a study in which he simplified the lives of children with attention deficit disorder. Within four short months 68% went from being clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional. The children also displayed a 37% increase in academic and cognitive aptitude, an effect not seen with commonly prescribed drugs like Ritalin.

As a new parent I find this both empowering and terrifying. We officially have a massive opportunity and responsibility to provide an environment in which our children can thrive physically, emotionally and mentally.

So, what are we getting wrong and how can we fix it?

THE BURDEN OF TOO MUCH

Early in his career, Payne volunteered in refugee camps in Jakarta, where children were dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He describes them as, “jumpy, nervous, and hyper-vigilant, wary of anything novel or new.”

Years later Payne ran a private practice in England, where he recognized many affluent English children were displaying the same behavioural tendencies as the children living in war zones half a world away. Why would these children living perfectly safe lives show similar symptoms?

(To read more, please follow the link below…)

http://raisedgood.com/extraordinary-things-happen-when-we-simplify-childhood/

Growing up Maori in NZ: My daily experience of racism at school, playing rugby, at University and at the shops, by an anonymous 18 year old young man

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I was 9 and it was the middle of religious education at our state primary school when a lady told our class that God didn’t love the Tuhoe people because they were terrorists. I still remember that day because I wanted to cry I was so angry. I knew she was lying. So I walked out of her class and went to the office and told them I wasn’t going to go to religious education anymore. The teachers rang my mum and she came in and told them that neither me nor my brother were ever going back to religious education.

Sometimes kids would say racist things and I used to try to ignore them a lot. I played rugby for our town and there were some boys in my team who’d call us racist names. One day at training a boy called me a dumb N***** and I had enough and ran at him and punched him.

Well I got in huge trouble. The coach had heard it all but told me it was all my fault for reacting and I need to just ignore it, as usual he never told off the boys who said racist things. I walked off and was crying. My Dad came out onto the field and told off my coach. My coach kept trying to blame me but my Dad told him he was useless and shouldn’t let the other boys abuse us and then expect us to take it.

It was around this time me and my cousin used to be picked on by a group of boys at our school. They’d say racist things about us and we refused to take it, we fought back. Teachers didn’t really do much, we were told to ignore it but it’s hard to ignore someone giving you a hiding. At lunch they’d just chase us and fight us, sometimes 10 to 2 so it was never a fair fight.

One day my cousin left some 4 x 2s in the bushes. He never told me what he’d done but that day at lunch when they were all chasing us he shouted at me to follow him to the bushes. We ran out of the bushes with these pieces of wood and all the boys who’d been about to bash us started screaming and running away. They were very fast and we didn’t even hit any of them. We ended up in the principal’s office and we were the ones in big trouble not the boys who’d been bullying us for ages.

My Dad came in and he argued with the principal and told him that if the school couldn’t guarantee our safety then our family would send in people to the school to make sure we were safe. He meant it and so from then on the school made sure the bullying ended. I left soon after to go to another school anyway and I remember being terrified as I was going to a much bigger school and assumed the bullying was going to be way worse. But when I got there the culture of the school was great and there was no bullying like what we had gone through.

When I started college I didn’t know why but I kept getting put into woodwork and metalwork option courses that I’d never signed up for. I had won an academic scholarship in Year 9 and ended up getting excellence in NCEA 1, 2 and 3, but for a while someone there decided I needed to do a trade. There is nothing wrong with tradie work, I actually love it – that’s what I do during the holidays – but it’s unfair to look at me and decide: Oh yeah OK, that brown kid he can do woodwork even though he asked to do Financial Management.

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After I got excellence in Year 11, me and a mate got an invite to start going to meetings for excellence students. Well we turned up and the lady asked us what we were doing there because this was a meeting for excellence students. A lot of the Pakeha kids who were there started giggling at us. I can’t remember what we said to her but she never really welcomed us into her meetings. I’ve got to admit we paid no attention in her meetings. A few more times when we’d turn up she’d look at us and ask if we were in the right place. She never remembered our names. We were the only Maori and Pasifika boys there.

Over the years I’d get used to having to defend everything Maori, during class discussions other kids would argue that the Treaty is racist or that Maori scholarships are racist.

Once I got up to say that my scholarship came from my tribe not from the Government and someone shouted out “Hone Harawira” from the back of the class. Being a Maori kid in a mostly Pakeha world, yeah. You’re often put on the spot whether you like it or not. One minute you’re defending your tribe in class. Next minute you get told to lead the haka or speak at a powhiri for the school.

(To read more, please follow the link below…)

http://www.thatsus.co.nz/my-daily-experience-of-racism

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)… and Aotearoa/ New Zealand

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“A 2003 UNICEF report said New Zealand had the third-worst rate of abuse and neglect of children in the OECD group of developed countries and Helen Clark, the prime minister at the time the law was passed, called the country’s child abuse record “a stain on our international reputation”. (Original story here)

What successive New Zealand Governments, including that of Helen Clark, would claim is that New Zealand has a solid track record of respecting the rights of the child …

However, let’s  look at New Zealand today re child rights.

  • New Zealand has the highest rate of domestic violence in the developed world
  • Between the years of 2007 – 2010 data showed that 1 in 6 Pakeha children (white European), 1 in 4 Pacific Island children and 1in 3 Māori children were living in poverty (figures show that children in homes below the poverty line increased from 22 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2010, and had dropped back only slightly to 27 per cent by 2012). By 2015 child poverty rates were back to 2007 – 2010 highs.
  • A 2003 UNICEF report demonstrated that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child death from maltreatment (physical abuse and neglect) among rich OECD countries. NZ ranked 25th on a league table of 27 countries with 1.2 deaths per 100,000 children
  • Over one in four NZ adults has experienced childhood trauma or abuse, family violence and/or sexual assault.

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  • NZ Police respond to one ‘family violence’ call every seven minutes. Police say that in 60% of domestic violence cases children are also being abused.
  • An international survey found that one in four New Zealand girls is sexually abused before the age of 15, the highest rate of any country examined.
  • Research shows the police only hear about 20% of all family violence incidents and 10% of sexual violence offences.
  • Rates of child abuse in New Zealand have risen by 32% in the last five years, with instances happening to children who are already in the care of the state.
  • New Zealand’s suicide rate for 15-19 year olds is one of the highest in the OECD and double that of neighbouring Australia.
  • New Zealand was called to task by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in June, 2015 for failing to adequately protect children.  The UN report heavily criticised aspects of law and government programmes which failed to address high child mortality rates, unequal access to services for Māori children and a lack of data around child abuse.

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  • In 2013-14 there were 117 children in the custody of Child, Youth and Family (CYF) reported to be abused; 88 were in the care of a CYF caregiver, 25 were formally placed with their parents but still officially in CYF custody, and five were abused while living with an unapproved caregiver or in an unapproved placement.  A 2015 report by the Children’s Commissioner slammed the government’s handling of children in State care. Principal Judge Andrew Becroft said the report was a vital piece of work. He said the Youth Court dealt with the most damaged, dysfunctional and disordered young people in New Zealand, and the overwhelming majority of them had a care and protection background. Judge Becroft said it sounded simplistic, but what the report highlighted was the need to do the care and protection work better. “So that we’re not left, for instance, with, as I understand it, 83 percent of prison inmates under 20 have a care and protection record with Child, Youth and Family.”

New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1993, the 131st country to do so.

1-CH-Large-However, New Zealand has entered a reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which reads: “Nothing in this Convention shall affect the right of the Government of New Zealand to continue to distinguish as it considers appropriate in its law and practice between persons according to the nature of their authority to be in New Zealand including but not limited to their entitlement to benefits and other protections described in the Convention, and the Government of New Zealand reserves the right to interpret and apply the Convention accordingly.”

Reservations to human rights treaties create technical difficulties that do not arise for treaties on other topics because the intended beneficiaries of obligations in human rights treaties are the people in each state, rather than the other state parties to a treaty. It is therefore more problematic to allow states to enter reservations to a human rights treaty, which allows states to modify the extent of their obligations then it would be for an ordinary treaty that has been entered into between states on a reciprocal basis. In short, when a state enters a reservation to a human rights treaty the reservation acts to diminish the rights of the people/citizens of that state.

slide_8Of particular concern are widely formulated reservations, such as that which NZ has entered to the Rights of the Child, which essentially render ineffective all Covenant rights which would require any change in national law to ensure compliance with Covenant obligations. No real international rights or obligations have thus been accepted. And when there is an absence of provisions to ensure the Covenant rights may be sued on in domestic courts, and, further, a failure to allow individual complaints to be brought to the Committee under the first Optional Protocol all the essential elements of the Covenant guarantees have been removed.

In simple terms, while New Zealand is a signatory party to the UNCRC its ratification of the Convention is little more than window dressing because New Zealand has effectively entered a clause/reservation which negates its responsibility to respect the rights of the child according to international human rights norms.

Committee’s recommendation

“In the spirit of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993 which urged States to withdraw reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee wishes to encourage the State party to take steps to withdraw its reservations to the Convention. Furthermore, the Committee encourages New Zealand to extend the application of the Convention with respect to the territory of Tokelau.”

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Source:  http://newzealandchildabuse.com/helen-clark-ex-nz-pm-a-nominee-for-un-secretary-general-youd-have-to-be-kidding-right/

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Acknowledging Past Institutional Child Sexual Abuse In Aotearoa/ New Zealand and Ensuring the Protection of Vulnerable Children in the Future, by Grant West and Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Grant FY

My name is Grant West I am a survivor of child sexual abuse in New Zealand. My abuse was by many different people in government-run institutions.

I am now travelling New Zealand collecting signatures on a petition calling for a Royal Commission Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I started in Dunedin and have travelled the South Island. I will be in Wellington on the 14th August 2016 to start to collect signatures on the petition from the 15th 16th 17th and 18th in the Cuba Mall.

I will be traveling the North Island to Lake Taupo and Rotorua from the 20th until the 23rd and then on to Hamilton from the 23rd until the 26th. From there I will be heading for Auckland, staying there until the 14th of September when I will fly back to Wellington too hand over the petition to three MPs on the steps of Parliament on the 15th of September at 1:15 pm.

I am asking for changes to the Australian and New Zealand Royal Commission.   As I am funding this out of my own money. I need help to be able to pay for things like the car hire and accommodation and petrol. So please if you can help me out and give a little bit that would help. New Zealanders: ANZ 06-0909-0439736-00   And Australians: Westpac BSB 033-607 ACC 000796  Even If anyone concerned out there gave a dollar or two, It would add up and help the cause.

With everyone signing the petition your signature is taking back the power from the government of New Zealand and putting it back in the hands of the people. Thank you for your support. My Facebook webpage is Silence No More NZ please go there and have a look.

I am here to stop the sexual abuse of New Zealand children and to give all victims and survivors, including and those that are no longer with us, a voice.

 

The following is from an interview Grant West recently gave to the Australian newspaper The Courier.

r52_143_3280_4227_w1200_h678_fmaxWhen Grant West was eight he was placed in juvenile detention after he was caught by police attempting to burn down a Presbyterian Church. 

It would be the first of many desperate attempts Mr West would make to end a cycle of horrific sexual abuse inflicted on him from the age of four. 

Mr West told The Courier he was the victim of intrafamilial sexual abuse before he was raped by a church minister at the age of six.

He become a ward of the state until the age eight and were abused up until the age 16.

He spoke of systematic beatings, sadistic sexual abuse and culture of fear at the boys home which was run by the former Department of Social Welfare from the 1960s through to the 1980s.

“I was shoved into a cell and beaten to a pulp,” Mr West said.

“The first night I was made to stand naked in the shower while they turned a high pressure fire hose on me. It wasn’t long after that the night-watchmen started sexually abusing me.” 

Mr West, has lived in Ballarat for more than a decade.

He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has made multiple attempts to end his life. 

While one of his perpetrators is in jail in New Zealand, others have died without ever being prosecuted. 

Mr West has made it his mission to protect future generations of children and get justice for scores of child sexual abuse victims in New Zealand. 

He is calling for the New Zealand federal government to roll-out an independent royal commission mirroring Australia’s child sex abuse inquiry.

He plans on travelling around New Zealand to get more than 200,000 signatures for petition which will be lodged in parliament.

He has returned to New Zealand because he wants to see changes to the system in his home country.

“We are asking for all institutions who care for children to have mandatory reporting of sexual abuse cases,” he said. “This is about changing the way we deal with children.”

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Grant West, right and supporter Pete Chapman are collecting signatures calling for a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/83075972/kiwi-expat-calling-for-royal-commission-inquiry-into-child-sex-abuse

Related You-tube Video…

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“The Dunedin Longitudinal Study”…one of the most amazing and detailed studies EVER of how important “The Forever Years” of childhood are in shaping the adults we become. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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“The Dunedin Longitudinal Study” or the “Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study” (now also known just as “The Dunedin Study”) can fairly be described as one of the most amazing and detailed studies EVER of how important “The Forever Years” of childhood are in shaping the adults we become.   Recently a four part TV series was screened about the study. Entitled “Why am I?”, the series looks at the different areas examined in “The Dunedin Study”.  Findings from the study illuminate adult problematic issues, many of which can now be identified within the first five years of life.  For those who have not seen “Why am I?”, it is available at the link below, although friends overseas tell me that they cannot get TVNZ On Demand outside of NZ.  (Give it a go anyway).  For those here in Aotearoa/ NZ, you have to sign up to TVNZ On Demand, but it is free to do so.

Link…

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand/why-am-i/episode-1-6474579#

History

The author (far right) with her parents, brother, an aunt and two cousins in Dunedin, 1981

The author (far right) with her parents, brother, an aunt and two cousins in Dunedin, 1981

I have a strong personal interest in this study, because my brother and two of my cousins are/ were participants and it began, and is still based in, my home town, Dunedin/ Ōtepoti, New Zealand/ Aotearoa.  Many memories of my own “Forever Years” are similar to those of study participants.

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Map showing location of Dunedin, New Zealand.

“The Dunedin Study” was started in 1972 by Phil Silva, a teacher and psychologist.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ Psychologist Phil Silva is emeritus director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has tracked around 1000 people from infancy to middle age.

Psychologist Phil Silva is emeritus director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has tracked around 1000 people from infancy to middle age. Source: ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Silva was a teacher first, then a psychologist working with young people with learning and behaviour problems. He helped paediatricians from the Otago University medical school on a neonatology survey of around 250 children. It became the basis of his PhD and opened his eyes to a staggering number of undiagnosed childhood problems. 

A child participant, late 1970s

A child participant, late 1970s

“Kids who couldn’t hear, kids who couldn’t see, kids who had language problems, kids who had language delay. Let’s say that one in 10 had a pretty important problem that had not been identified and dealt with.”

He realised they needed a bigger study of a larger sample group. So they identified the 1037 children born at Dunedin’s Queen Mary Hospital between April 1972 and March 1973. They tested and assessed them at age 3, then 5, 7 and so on.   [Source:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/81109052/national-portrait-phil-silva-psychology-pioneer]

Luckily for Silva and his team, and for all of us, funding for the study has continued and the testing was able to continue as the “babies” grew into children, teenagers and then adults. Dr. Silva retired from his position as director of the study in 1999 and the role was taken over by Dr. Richie Poulton, who continues “The Dunedin Study” today.

The study is unique in that researchers have gone out of their way to retain participants.  Many are now scattered around New Zealand and the world, but, every six years, the study pays for them to be flown, from wherever they are, to Dunedin for testing.  This has resulted in a world record longitudinal study retention rate of 96% of participants (compared with a 30% rate of retention in other studies).  Current director, Dr. Richie Poulton, says,

“…our advantage is that we keep them in. …  We have kept [participants] whether they are transient, incarcerated or on the run from the law.”

The high retention rate of participants, Poulton says, as well as the wide and extremely varied lives they have led, gives weight to the data collected.

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NZ Tourism Poster

“In the early days there was a reluctance to take the study seriously.  Some thought results from 1000 people in New Zealand couldn’t possibly apply to people in other parts of the world.  This was in part due to the 1970s New Zealand Tourism Board, which promoted Aotearoa as a tropical Polynesian destination.” [Source: Why am I?, Episode 1].

As time went by however, it became apparent that results of “The Dunedin Study” were comparable with similar studies in other developed countries around the globe.  Over the past 40 years there has been an average on one academic paper published every 13 days, relating to the findings of “The Dunedin Study”.

We at the “Forever Years” believe these study findings should be available to all people everywhere, and will have a huge impact on our perception of childhood, particularly the early years.    Some of the areas of major findings in children which have continued into their adulthoods are summarised below.

"The Octagon" (Centre of town, Dunedhttp://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/76867478/Dunedin-study-is-the-gift-that-keeps-givingn, NZ, c. 1972

“The Octagon” (Centre of town), Dunedin NZ, c. 1972

For the next few posts, “The Forever Years” will be writing short articles on these topics, the results discovered in “The Dunedin Study” and how these can be used to help children… and people in general.  We will create links on the following topics, so readers can click on them (in the list below) and read about a particular aspect investigated by “The Dunedin Study”.   These will be useful to members of the general public, anywhere in the world, who are unable to access the documentary.  We hope they will also help to summarise and clarify some of the main points made in the documentary and through the research undertaken by “The Dunedin Study”, with a focus on identifying particular issues in early childhood.

Dr. Poulton says the experience of being director of “The Dunedin Study” has changed him and given him a deeper understanding of altruism, trust and courage.  Among participants, he says, are people who have had very hard lives, including those who have trusted researchers with personal information they have never told anyone else, such as having been sexually abused.  “We have to honour their trust,” Poulton says, “…we are the guardians of a reservoir of extraordinary good will.”  He says it is important that the results of the study (and continuing results as the participants move into middle and then old age) move “outside the ivory tower of academia”, so they can be implemented in general society.

Richie Poulton, talking with a child in an early learning centre.

Richie Poulton, talking with a child in an early learning centre.

Childhood is a time of hope and possibility for both children and parents.  “The Dunedin Study” has identified that many adult problems begin much earlier in life than we’d previously imagined.  But it has also found overwhelming evidence of the benefits to children of a good start in life… and that a good start can avert what may initially appear to be negative personality traits (positive nurture can overcome negative nature, if you like).  Overall, then, we at “The Forever Years” believe the message presented in data collected is one of hope for our children, if the results are then acted upon.  Acting upon them will mean early intervention for “at risk” children and a greater investment in our children’s early years, including in supporting parents and in quality early childhood education.  A “good childhood” with a balanced and predictable environment and parenting which is warm, stimulating, sensitive and consistent sets people up for the best life trajectory.

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Related Links…

http://dunedinstudy.otago.ac.nz/

http://dunedinstudy.otago.ac.nz/about-us

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/80402120/Dunedin-providing-the-data-that-could-shape-humanitys-future

http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/76867478/Dunedin-study-is-the-gift-that-keeps-giving

World Day Against Child Labour

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It’s World Day Against Child Labour (June 12th)! This year’s theme is “End child labour in supply chains – It’s everyone’s business!” You can check for the existence of child labour in the supply chains of products you use with the US Department of Labor’s “Sweat & Toil” app or via its “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” Share what you find!  https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods/

This website (at the link above) also has many other interesting, more detailed facts about the child labour and forced child labour used in the countries mentioned in the list, which is below.  Share this information.  All the children of the world are “our” children, all children deserve a childhood, an education and to be free from exploitation.

Link to a previous post on “The Forever Years” about Child Labour:  https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/2268/

child-labour

Jainal works in silver cooking pot factory in India. He is 11 years old. He has been working in this factory for three years. Source: http://kalyan-city.blogspot.co.nz/2009/07/child-labour-in-india-still-prevalent.html

Globally, as many as 168 million children between ages 5-17 are child labourers, with 85 million in hazardous child labour – forced labour, trafficking and bonded labour.(1) Children who work are often separated from their families, exposed to dangerous substances, harsh working conditions and higher risk of mistreatment, violence, physical and psychological abuse.(2) Child domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, forced labour and sexual violence and many children face potential health consequences, including respiratory ailments, joint problems, loss of hearing and vision, poisoning(3) and sexually transmitted diseases.(4)  Many child labourers never go to school or drop out. Lack of access to education perpetuates a cycle of exploitation, illiteracy and poverty – limiting future options and forcing children to accept low wage work as adults and to raise their own children in poverty. Despite these consequences, there are still 46 countries(5) that do not legally protect children under the age of 18 from performing hazardous work. [Source: http://www.aworldatschool.org/issues/topics/Child-labour]

Thanks to Plan International NZ for drawing attention to this list via Facebook.  🙂

Links to Plan International and US Department of Labor’s List below…

https://www.childfund.org.nz/about-us?gclid=Cj0KEQjws_m6BRCv37WbtNmJs-IBEiQAWKKt0J_OzUBaKK9-MBLPJN4XDaYicAxtUz1MojlUjEX4CgUaAhK28P8HAQ

https://www.facebook.com/freefromviolence/?fref=nf&pnref=story

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Source:  https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods/

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6 Ways We (Accidentally) Teach Our Kids Rape Culture, by Joanna Schroeder

A cute 5 year old female child dressed in pink plaid shirt with blue jeans staring out into the rodeo arena dreaming of riding horses one day. The image has a vintage / western coloring theme with left side copy space.

No parent (that I’ve ever met) would ever dream of teaching their child that rape is okay. But every day, in many different ways, well-meaning parents contribute to rape culture, and our kids suffer for it.

As moms and dads, we probably don’t talk directly about rape to kids, at least not until they’re older. But we’re still sending messages about sex and consent all the time. Because of that, we need to make sure we’re not teaching them some very dangerous lessons, even if just by accident.

Here are six (very common) ways we get it wrong, and how we can do better …

1. Telling our kids that “boys will be boys.”

As a mom of very active boys, I know most people don’t mean any harm when they say “boys will be boys,” but too often that phrase is used to excuse bad behavior, like hitting other kids or being destructive.

The truth is, boys are perfectly capable of respecting other people’s bodies,possessions, and space. But every time they hear us excuse their bad behavior as part of boy life, they learn that they are not only above the rules, but also that boys cannot control their impulses.

This message will stick with them as they grow older and sexual desire starts to kick in. As parents, we cannot be shocked that boys feel entitled to sexually harass others (whether it’s standard rape, like in Steubenville, or as part of the all-too-common tradition of sexual “hazing”) when we’ve been telling them their whole lives that they are above the rules, by virtue of being boys.

2. Forcing kids to hug and kiss others.

Lots of well-meaning, loving parents tell their kids to give a friend or relative a hug without considering whether their kid really wants to. This sends the dangerous message that consent can be over-ridden, or doesn’t matter at all.

Instead, suggest a few different ways to greet or say goodbye to loved ones. I ask my kids, “Do you want to give grandma a hug, or maybe a high five or a wave goodbye?”

Kids need to know, from the beginning of life, that consent matters.

 

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.babble.com/parenting/ways-we-accidentally-teach-our-kids-rape-culture/

“The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog”, by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. A Book Review and Analysis by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Dog

I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” a fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in child psychology or who works with traumatised children… or even if you just have a general interest in how our minds (and the developing minds of children in particular) respond to trauma.  The full title of this book is “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook, What Traumatized Children can Teach us about Loss, Love and Healing” and the authors are Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, and Maia Szalavitz.

One of the things I liked about this book was that, despite saying that traumatic events can “leave indelible marks on the mind [and the]…impact of PTSD [Post Traumatic Shock Disorder] is actually far greater on children than it is on adults” [p.2], the overall tone is positive and hopeful, both for children who have been affected by PTSD as a consequence of  severe abuse and/ or neglect or due to witnessing horrific events, as well as for adults affected by PTSD.   Bruce D. Perry, a child psychiatrist and Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy (USA and Canada) is the “voice” of this book, which he wrote together with Maia Szalavitz, an award winning journalist who specialises in science and health.  Perry compassionately and respectfully acknowledges the immense importance of “The Forever Years” (childhood) and the importance of investing in and creating a serious strategy of therapy for children  affected by trauma.

As a “lay person” (non-psychiatrist) I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” clear and self-explanatory.   On page 21 there is an excellent description of how our human brain develops: …“there are four major parts of the brain: the brainstem, the diencephalon, the limbic system and the cortex.  The brain is organised from the inside out, like a house with increasingly complicated additions built on an old foundation.  The lower and most central regions of the brainstem and the diencephalon are the simplest.  They evolved first, and they develop first as a child grows.  As you move upward and outward, things get increasingly more complex with the limbic system.”

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Source: “The Boy who was raised as a Dog,” appendix, figure 2, p. 248.

The younger a child is when a traumatic event occurs, Perry says, the greater the affect on the lower and most central regions of the brain.  This, he explains, is “developmental trauma” (as opposed to inherent anxiety or stress disorders caused in utero or by genetics).  Trauma in early childhood causes “altered receptors” or heightened sensitivity to “threat”: an over-exaggerated “fight or flight” reaction, based on triggers which the person may not even  be consciously aware of themselves and which, in others who have not undergone similar trauma, would probably not cause such a reaction.  A clear indicator, Perry realised,  was that children with this “heightened sensitivity” had, even when calm and resting, an accelerated heart rate at a level significantly above that of their non-traumatised peers of the same age and gender.

The responses of traumatised children, Perry explains, can be to create more “chaos”, as this has been their “norm” in the past and brain pathways of accepting chaos as normality have been set up.  Adults who undertake social work or foster care, for example, should be aware of this.  “The responses of traumatised children are often misinterpreted.   …new situations are inherently stressful… attempting to take control of what they believe is the inevitable return to chaos, they appear to “provoke” it in order to make things feel more comfortable and predictable.   …we tend to prefer the “certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.”  This response to trauma can often cause serious problems for children when it is misunderstood by their caregivers.”  [p.55].

Following from this, Perry says that he and his colleagues recognised that “…the nature of a child’s relationships–both before and after trauma– seemed to play a critical role in shaping their response to it.  If safe, familiar and capable caregivers were made available to children, they tended to recover more easily, often showing no enduring negative effects of the traumatic event.  We knew that the “trauma-buffering” effect of relationships had to be mediated, somehow, by the brain.”  [p.66]

This is where the amazing capacity of our human brains to “heal” and create “new pathways”, even years after traumatic events which have occurred during early childhood (during the first, early stages of brain development) comes into play.

“…we tend to care for our children [and, interestingly, for ourselves as adults] the way we were cared for ourselves during our own childhoods, [so] a good “brain” history of a child begins with a history of the caregiver’s childhood and early experience.” [p.83].  Our “Forever Years”, then, are also effected by the “Forever Years” of those caring for us when we are young.  The diagnosis “failure to thrive” in a child ” (discussed on p.88) can stem from a parent or parents not having  thrived themselves during their own childhood years.   In extreme cases, even  when other, basic needs (such as for food, shelter and clothing) are met, if a carer is emotionally “distant” a child may fail to gain weight or be delayed in other ways (such as speech or other developmental milestones).  This is purely a “nurture” (or lack of nurture) issue, and nothing to do with anything innate in the child.  Perry talks about how until recently, doctors were “...unaware of the damage that neglect alone can do to the brain.  They assumed that something so clearly visible on scans had to be evidence of a genetic defect or intrauterine insult, such as exposure to toxins or disease; they couldn’t imagine that early environment alone could have such profound physical effects.” [p. 129].

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Neurologists say that the sizeable difference between these two brains of two different 3-year-olds has one primary cause: the way that their mothers treated them. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D./Ch Source: http://www.medicaldaily.com/chilling-brain-scans-show-impact-mothers-love-childs-brain-size-243328

“Fortunately the positive cycle is every bit as cascading and self-amplifying as the vicious cycle,” Perry says, [p.121] and while emotional scars may always be present, the intervention of a loving, understanding environment can reprogram reactions and triggers.  This is enormously positive  when considering the effect on  future social interactions (including romantic relationships) for traumatised children as they grow into adulthood and becomes parents themselves.  The more relationships are positively retained and jobs and parenting situations are handled in constructive ways, the stronger and more confident the “traumatised child now adult” will become, which in turn further aids healing of old, emotional scars.

Perry doesn’t just put this forward as a vague hypothesis, however.  Throughout “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” he gives concrete examples through case studies of real patients he has worked with (obviously, these children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy).   Each is an example of a child suffering from severe trauma, including the “boy who was raised as a dog,” who gives the book its title.  Through his work, Perry says, he and his colleagues “…only gradually came to understand how the sequential development of a child’s brain is affected by trauma and neglect.  It only gradually dawned on us that this understanding could help us find possible treatments. These insights led us to develop what we call the neurosequential approach to theraputic services for maltreated and traumatised children. [p.125].

I love the “neurosequential” approach Perry and his colleagues take, along with the immense positive ramifications it has for the children they are working with.  The nuerosequential approach works on the basis of assessing which areas in a patient’s brain have sustained damage or neglect from past experiences, and then addressing these one by one.   “We would use enrichment experiences and targeted therapies to help the affected brain areas in the order in which they were affected by neglect and trauma (hence the name neurosequential).  If we could document improved functioning following the first set of interventions, we would begin the second set appropriate  for the next brain region and developmental stage until, hopefully,… [the patient] would get to the point where his biological age and his developmental age would match.”  [p.139].

Just as our brains develop sequentially, then, neurosequential therapy is aimed at addressing “loss” in development (caused by abuse, neglect or trauma) in a sequential manner.  Perry uses the example of a boy called Connor (not his real name), now aged fourteen, who had suffered from severe neglect as a baby.  “In Connor’s case, It was clear that his problems had started in early infancy, when the lower and most central regions of the brain are actively developing.  These systems respond to rhythm and touch: the brainstem’s regulatory centres control heartbeat, the rise and fall of neurochemicals and hormones in the cycle of day and night, the beat of one’s walk and other patterns which must maintain a rhythmic order to function properly.” [pp.139-140].  For Connor, “treatment” began with massage therapy, as early neglect had left him with an aversion to touch which was affecting his ability to even make eye contact with others, and hence affecting his social relationships.

Perry goes on to describe the “levels” or “layers” of neurosequential therapy, each of which respond to and attempt to address a deficit caused by trauma earlier on.

White Layers

Touch

kangaroo-careTouch is, of course, our earliest form of validation and security from our carers.  This is the reason for the importance placed on giving newborn babies “skin to skin” contact and the psychological benefits of this can be seen throughout life.  (See previous articles on this blog about the importance of positive touch in early childhood and throughout life, by following the links below).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/infant-massage-nurturing-touch-and-self-care-for-the-caregiver-by-erin-e-sonnier-from-nurtured-child-nurtured-you

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/touch-as-nutrition-by-john-tuite/

Music and Movement

Many of us parents take our preschoolers to “Music and Movement” groups thinking that that’s just “what you do” and that it gives us a chance to socialise with other parents and connect with and focus on our children in a child-centred environment.  All of this is true and the benefits of music to our babies and children has been well documented.  (Again, there is a link to follow below if you would like to read an article about the benefits of music to our kids).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/5-ways-in-which-kids-benefit-from-learning-a-musical-instrument-by-justine-pierre/

After reading “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog”, I came to realise that, beyond being merely “beneficial”, music and movement are essential in brain development, affecting crucial areas such as language acquisition and breathing and heart rate regulation. Music and humanity have been linked since the dawn of time, with every culture having songs and rhymes for children passed down from generation to generation.  They are part of the fabric of who we are.

Play Therapy

mi1_675Perry describes how “play therapy” is used in treating traumatised children and in particular talks about Sandy (not her real name), a three year old girl who witnessed her mother being raped and stabbed to death, before having her own throat slit and being left for dead.  Sandy was alone with her mother’s body in their apartment for eleven hours before being discovered, taken to hospital and having the wounds on her neck treated. [p.33].   Perry discovered that Sandy had a need to role play the scene which had traumatised her again and again.  This involved  Perry himself lying on the ground, in the role of Sandy’s mother, while Sandy attempted to “wake” him and “feed” him, which she had done with her mother during the eleven hours after the brutal attack on them both.  [p.52].  “While she did this [role play] , I had to do exactly what she wanted: don’t talk, don’t move, don’t interfere, don’t stop.  She needed to have total control while she performed this reenactment.  And that control, I began to recognize, would be critical to helping her heal.”  Over the course of manyPlato-play+blue months, Sandy began to alter this re-enactment and, on her own, changed it to a scene where Perry would read her a story book, thus reverting to a positive memory of times with her mother before the attack.  This is not to say that Sandy wasn’t scarred by her extremely traumatic experience.  But “play therapy” in this way enabled her to process what had happened and move towards healing.  Perry says that, with ongoing therapy and encouragement, Sandy went on to lead a satisfying and productive life, despite her horrific early  experience.

The importance of “play” is something for all parents and carers to be aware of.  A particularly useful article on “Attachment Play” (especially beneficial to children being fostered or adopted, who may have attachment issues or disorders, but also beneficial to our children generally) was recently published by Marion Badenoch Rose, here on the “Forever Years”.  (To read it, please follow the link below):

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/an-introduction-to-attachment-play-by-marion-badenoch-rose/

Some other articles on the importance of play can be found at the links below:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-remarkable-power-of-play-why-play-is-so-important-for-children-by-karen-young/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/let-the-children-play-outside-by-greenlife-matters-the-nursery-and-garden-industry-new-zealand/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/help-my-toddler-cant-play-without-me-by-janet-lansbury/

Interaction with Peers

kidsplaying-on-playgroundPerry says the next step in neurosequential therapy is being able to aptly interact with peers.  This is a big step, as adults make allowances and try to protect or help a child who they see as having “issues”, but successful peer interaction (and acceptance of and by peers) is necessary to be able to function throughout the rest of life, with implications for all future relationships.  Perry discusses the case of Peter (not his real name) a seven year old boy who was adopted at age three from an orphanage in Russia.  Due to early lack of stimulation and neglect during his time at the orphanage (where intentions were good, but there were simply not enough adults to go around, meaning that Peter and the other three year olds there were fed and changed, but spent all day in cots), Peter, who was an intelligent boy, showed behaviour which was young for his age and, inspite of loving and patient behaviour from his adoptive parents at home, this caused him to be rejected and marginalised by his peers… which in turn led Peter to having angry, bewildered outburts (which only served to further ostracise him from his classmates).

Mandela“The behavior of his classmates was predictable.  What was happening was a small version of what happens all across the planet in various forms every day.  Human beings fear what they don’t understand.  The unknown scares us.  When we meet people who look or act in unfamiliar, strange ways, our initial response is to keep them at arms length.  At times we make ourselves feel superior, smarter or more competent by dehumanizing or degrading those who are different.  The roots of so many of our species’ ugliest behaviors– racism, ageism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, to name just a few– are the basic brain-mediated response to perceived threat.  We tend to fear what we do not understand, and fear can so easily twist into hate or even violence because it can suppress the rational parts of our brain.”  [p.225].

The biggest predator of humans is humans and we have, therefore, a built in fear of other people who seem “different”.  Perry says, “...Peter was intellectually advanced, but socially clueless.  I realised that if he was going to catch up, he was going to need the help of his peers.” [p.226].

choose-wiselyWhat followed was an amazing (and yet simple) exercise in understanding.  Our fear reaction so often kicks in, but the empathy reaction can take longer to activate (in children or adults), but, it has been shown, empathy once activated is stronger than the fear reaction.  To get Peter’s peers “on side” in his healing, Perry (with the permission of Peter, his parents and the school) came along to his class and spoke about the brain… at a level at which seven year old children could understand.

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of "The Boy who was raised as a Dog", "talking about the brain".

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of “The Boy who was raised as a Dog”, “talking about the brain”.  Source: http://davidsmithsegarra.com/born-love-dr-bruce-perry/

I talked about how they were exercising their “ABC” muscles [of the brain] in school and about the importance of repetition.  I described how they had many other similar kinds of “muscles” in the brain that also needed certain kinds of attention to grow big and strong.  I talked about how the brain develops and what makes everyone’s brain work, emphasizing how the brain changes.” [p.228].

Perry then went on to explain how Peter had had a different and more difficult start in life than the other children in his class.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

“When he was a little boy, he spent every minute of every day for the first three years of his life in one crib.  …  Peter was born in another country where they did not know very much about the brain.  … Peter never had a chance to walk around, to play with friends, to get a hug from any loving grown-ups.  His brain didn’t get very much stimulation.  … his new parents came… [then] Peter’s amazing brain started to learn so many things.  Even though he had never heard English, he learned English in just a couple of years. … every day in school, Peter learns things from all of you.  He watches how you do things, he learns from playing with each of you and he learns from just being your friend.  So thank you for helping Peter.  And thanks for letting me come and talk about the brain.”  [pp.228-229].

Perry says that, in the weeks that followed, the children’s “natural goodness” came to the surface and they “included him, protected him and, ultimately, provided therapeutic experiences that helped Peter catch up…. adults have much more influence over the process [of helping children understand those who are different] than they may believe.  When children understand why someone behaves oddly, they give him or her more slack…” [p.229].

tribal-fear-altruism

In Conclusion

The Boy Who was raised as a Dog” has many more examples of the amazing capacity of the human brain to recover from early neglect or trauma, including the story which gives the book its title.  Perry also worked with the children from the WACO Texas cult and talks about his experiences with them in this book.  While Perry’s patients are extreme examples of trauma or abuse, he says an estimated 40% of children will experience some level of trauma before they reach adulthood [p. 233] and that some of our current practices of therapy and childcare are actually causing more harm than healing [p.235].  He advocates for an “infant and child literate society” [p.239] and a nurturing of empathy– which is why we at “The Forever Years” love this book, which fits in so well with our own ethos, of viewing the world “through the eyes of a child”, an ethos which Perry certainly puts into action when treating children who have suffered from trauma or neglect.

Related Links:

Life After Stress: The Biology of Trauma and Resilience

http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2012/08/02/what-americans-dont-get-about-the-brains-critical-period/

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/529-baby-brain-map

http://nancyguberti.com/5-stages-of-human-brain-development/

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