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Mother’s Love in the First Three Years

October 30, 2012

The pictures of brain scans in this article from the Medical Daily are worth more than a thousand words: they show how a mother’s neglect during the first 2-3 years of a child’s life can stunt the growth of the child’s brain. If we know this is true, and if we also know:

….the child with the smaller brain… will be more likely to become addicted to drugs, be involved in violent crimes, be unemployed and dependent on government benefits in the future.

Furthermore, the child with the shrunken brain is significantly more likely to develop mental and other serious health-related problems.

And if we also know:

Researchers said the process of childhood neglect is a vicious cycle because the parents of neglected children were also neglected by their parents and do not have fully developed brain.

However, past research has shown that the cycle can be broken if there is early intervention and families are supported.

Why aren’t we doing SOMETHING to intervene? The answer is that intervention is initially costly, potentially cast as “government interference”, and fraught with ethical questions.

But NOT intervening is clearly costly— compensatory education programs, Special Education, drug interventions, and incarceration and/or medical treatment for mental illness are all costly.

And NOT intervening doesn’t limit “government intervention”. Placing a child on an IEP is arguably “government intervention”… and the last time I looked prisons were overseen by the government (though they, too, are being privatized— another sad story). Whenever someone runs afoul of the law, the government will intervene. Isn’t it better to intervene EARLY that to wait for a predictable adverse consequence?

And NOT intervening poses ethical dilemmas as well. If one witnesses a mother striking a child inappropriately at a store is there an ethical responsibility to do something? If a doctor is aware that a child is being neglected, do they have an ethical responsibility to do something? Now the tough question: if we neglect the way children are being reared knowing that many appear at their first day of school lacking the emotional nurturance required to learn effectively, doesn’t THAT pose an ethical dilemma as well?

We know that early neglect and abuse results in serious cognitive, emotional, and mental problems in the future. Shouldn’t we do SOMETHING?



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