Even with proper nutrition and perfunctory care, if an infant does not receive affectionate social interaction, her physical development will be stunted and her brain development compromised. The important role of sensory stimulation for brain development—discussed in Part II—is thought to be an important mechanism in an infant’s development. Even moments after birth, the child needs an attachment figure, and the social behavior of the newborn is designed to induce the parent into providing the resources required for her growth.9 In other words, the infant is typically quite effective at convincing her caregivers to relinquish their personal resources of time and money. Of course, the infant’s needed resources include food and protection, but there are other important needs to be filled. The caregiver must also control the infant’s physiological functions, such as temperature regulation. Specifically, the caregiver regulates the child’s temperature by dressing her in an appropriate manner as well as through physical contact and heat exchange. In fact, the caregiver controls many of the infant’s physiological systems and this appears to be a major mechanism for the caregiver to program the infant. This is a critical concept, because it further indicates that sensory stimulation is important and further explains why there is an certain level of sensory stimulation required for optimal development.
Myron Hofer calls the mother’s sensory stimulation of the infant a “hidden regulator” of the infant’s physiology and behavior.10 For example, touch regulates the infant’s levels of growth hormone, and the caregiver’s presence reduces the infant’s levels of stress hormone during stressful events. The regulatory function of the caregiver occurs fairly naturally once an attachment is formed and the caregiver has had the opportunity or has taken the time to learn how to parent (parenting is not an innate skill). This provides stimulation of the appropriate sensory system at the appropriate intensity and patterning to promote healthy development. There is no special receptor for love, a feeling of safety, or any other emotion to enter the child’s brain. The only way information about attachment quality can be transduced to enter the brain is through our five senses. This pattern of sensory stimulation is how experience enters the brain and changes its development via changing chemicals and individual neural activity. Healthy attachment naturally provides the developing brain with the appropriate sensory stimulation and neural activity. As is suggested by the wide range of child rearing approaches in different cultures, a wide range of types and patterning of sensory stimuli can produce a healthy child that matures into a healthy adult
Sam and Mark Stewart had developed significant psychological problems with accompanying physical conditions. They lived in fear of displeasing their father who could be affable and fun to be with but, when displeased, would scream, curse, call them names, and hit them. Sam told me how awkward it was even to bring a friend into the house because his father would behave as though Sam’s friend was his. He said that he would ask his father for help with homework, but that sometimes turned into an hours-long ordeal lasting into the night with Mr. Stewart haranguing him as to how to do the work the “right way.”
Mark told me that sometimes when his father got mad, he and Sam would have to do chores all day rather than hang out with friends. He also said that his dad would be so furious, his face would turn red, and he would hit him. He and Sam were particularly distressed by how mean their father was to their mom.
Mark and Sam were independent enough to make their own assessment of the family situation. They showed no signs of having been coached. Moreover, after they had lived apart from their dad for several months, they were far less anxious, improved in their academic performance, and had developed fewer physical symptoms.
Resentment and anger can build up, particularly when the split isn’t amicable, and it’s easy to see how one parent can end up bad-mouthing another in front of the only innocent party – the kids. But how much damage is this kind of parental alienation doing?
Mens Aid Ireland is the only dedicated national service supporting men and their families experiencing Domestic Violence in Ireland. Our professional and qualified support team have years of experience in supporting men and families experiencing domestic abuse.We provide:
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Adults who survived significant early-childhood abandonment, abuse, and neglect and inherited up to six psychological wounds.
Normal personalities are composed of three types semi-independent “subselves,” including a wise “true Self.”
If adults with psychological wounds dont take proactive steps to reduce recover, they’re often ruled by well-intentioned “false selves,” causing many personal problems – including unintentionally wounding young people in their care.