Tag Archives: Mental Health

Study: brain of child neglected by mother is smaller and underdeveloped

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail. In the past, I’ve written about how much children need their fathers, but this time I’m focusing on how much children need their mothers, especially in the first 5 years of development.

Here is two brain scans to compare:

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected
Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

My friend Katy tweeted this article from far-left NPR:

Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

More than a decade of research on children raised in institutions shows that “neglect is awful for the brain,” says Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. Without someone who is a reliable source of attention, affection and stimulation, he says, “the wiring of the brain goes awry.” The result can be long-term mental and emotional problems.

The article goes on to talk about children who grow up without mothers in Romanian orphanages:

As the children grew older, the researchers were able to use MRI to study the anatomy of their brains. And once again, the results were troubling. “We found a dramatic reduction in what’s referred to as gray matter and in white matter,” Nelson says. “In other words, their brains were actually physically smaller.”

The scientists realized the cause wasn’t anything as simple as malnutrition. It was a different kind of deprivation — the lack of a parent, or someone who acted like a parent.

A baby “comes into the world expecting someone to take care of them and invest in them,” Nelson says. “And then they form this bond or this relationship with this caregiver.” But for many Romanian orphans, there wasn’t even a person to take them out of the crib.

“Now what happens is that you’re staring at a white ceiling, or no one is talking to you, or no one is soothing you when you get upset,” Nelson says. So areas of the brain involved in vision and language and emotion don’t get wired correctly.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and a couple of years of employment. But I think to be fair to the research on child development, she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children.  I would take over more of the parenting as the children’s needs changed. When it comes to children, we work backward from their needs, and those needs create responsibilities and obligations on the grown-ups. That doesn’t mean the children are spoiled – it means that they get what they need.

Christian parents have to go even further

Here is a relevant post from Lindsay, a Christian mother who has a graduate degree in biology and was teaching biology before leaving her career to care for her children.

She writes:

Now, can a woman handle the logistics of the home, ensure her family is cared for, and still work outside the home? Perhaps, in some cases – especially if they do not yet have children. But no woman is Superwoman. We all have limitations. It’s just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job. The care of children and the home is primarily a woman’s responsibility in a way it isn’t for her husband. If there are no children, it may be possible for her to care for the home and her husband and still keep a job outside the home, but she must keep the home and her husband as her priority.

Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be the primary influences in their children’s lives. That doesn’t happen if the children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.

Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love, teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.

For Christian parents, the stakes are even higher. Not only do they have to care about basic needs of child, but the higher spiritual needs as well. Men really need to be careful to pick a mother for their child who has demonstrated ability in caring for the needs of others, letting the needs of others override her own selfish desires.

New study: father absence is a strong predictor of depression for young girls

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
If you want your children to grow up happy, commit yourself to marriage

The study is here on PubMed.

And here’s an article about it posted at The Family in America, a public policy journal.

Excerpt:

Who has benefitted from the war radical feminists have waged against marriage? Certainly not young women. A very large new Canadian study concludes that one of the strongest predictors of depression among young women is the loss of a biological parent. And it is the easy divorces that feminists have pushed for that have typically occasioned such a loss.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia, this new study isolates the factors predicting depression among Canadians ages 16 to 20. The researchers limn these factors by scrutinizing data collected between 1994 and 2007 from a nationally representative sample of 1,715 individuals tracked during this 13-year period.

Predictably, the researchers adduce evidence that such things as parental rejection and childhood anxiety predict depression between a young person’s 16th birthday and his or her 21st.  But gender makes a difference: consistent with other inquiries, this study finds that “girls reported more [depression] than boys.” However, not all girls are equally vulnerable: the data reveal that “The loss of a parent by the ages of 4 to 8 years predicted depression at ages 16 to 20 years for girls [p = 0.008] but not for boys.”

Of course, a girl can lose a parent through death. But the researchers realize that such tragedy occurs far less often than the trauma of parental divorce. Consequently, they know how to interpret parental loss as a predictor of girls’ depression at the threshold between adolescence and young adulthood. This is a finding, they realize, that fits hand-in-glove with the results of a 2008 study establishing that “the effects of parental divorce . . . differ between genders in respect to the development of depression with risk increasing for girls but not for boys.” They further realize that their study harmonizes with a 1997 study concluding that “young women whose parents had divorced reported higher levels of depression compared to young men from divorced families.”

Given the paralyzing effects of depression as “a leading cause of disability worldwide,” the researchers hope their study will lead to “targeted, specific and personalized intervention” that will curb such depression. More particularly, they hope that “girls may benefit from interventions designed to address parental loss due to death, divorce, and other causes.”

But since nothing takes a parent away from a daughter more often in the 21st century than does parental divorce, it is very clear that the kind of intervention girls most need is the kind that will keep their parents together. Just how quickly that intervention comes will depend heavily on how much reality can puncture feminist ideology.

This study makes me think of the problems that we have these days getting married and staying married. I think that there are three kinds of challenges. The first challenge is ideology, e.g. – radical feminism. The second challenge is cultural, e.g. – the hook-up culture on campus. The third challenge is political, e.g. – no-fault divorce. It seems likes the odds are really stacked against marriage-minded people.

Most people like the idea of having someone of the opposite sex commit to them for life. I write a lot about what people should be looking for in a mate. Factors that predict a person’s ability to commit, what their worldview should be, etc. But we also have to remember that we have to be turning ourselves into people who are suited to a lifetime commitment, involving self-denial and self-sacrifice.

A lot of people seem to think that if they meet the right person – the person who makes them feel good – then they won’t have to do any self-denying or any self-sacrificing. But that’s not true. Feelings change. It’s possible for two serial killers to feel good about each other, and to having things in common, but marriage isn’t about whether you “like” the other person and whether they “like” you. Marriage works when you have two people who are comfortable making commitments. Two people who are comfortable with responsibilities, expectations and obligations.

The point I am trying to make here is that not only must we be looking for someone who can be faithful, loyal, commitment through thick and thin, but we must also prepare to become a person like that. If we make choices for our own happiness every day – fun and thrills – then we are not making ourselves into the kind of people who take responsibility and make commitments.

The strange thing is that those who choose fun over and over and over again seem to make the worst decisions when it comes to choosing mates. Of course it’s easier to pick someone who is not too moral and not too religious. Then they won’t be able to judge you. They’ll just let you do whatever you want and never shame you for anything.

The problem is that marriage works best when two people are comfortable with moral obligations to others. You have to be someone who is comfortable with obligations over the long term. And you have to choose someone who has a strong sense of morality, otherwise they won’t honor their moral obligations to others. Commitment means doing what is right regardless of how you feel about it, It means giving up on the pursuit of fun, in order to build something strong that will take you into your old age.

A closer look at gender-reassignment surgery and psychological disorders

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

This article on The Public Discourse by Walt Heyer (H/T Katy), a form transgender woman, was tweeted to me multiple times, so I have to write something about it. It talks about the research on transgender people and the outcomes of gender-reassignment surgery.

Here is the part I thought captures the theme of the article:

Studies show that the majority of transgender people have other co-occurring, or comorbid, psychological disorders.

A 2014 study found 62.7% of patients diagnosed with gender dysphoria had at least one co-occurring disorder, and 33% were found to have major depressive disorders, which are linked to suicide ideation. Another 2014 study of four European countries found that almost 70% of participants showed one or more Axis I disorders, mainly affective (mood) disorders and anxiety.

In 2007, the Department of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, committed to a clinical review of the comorbid disorders of the last 10 patients interviewed at their Gender Identity Clinic. They found that “90% of these diverse patients had at least one other significant form of psychopathology . . . [including] problems of mood and anxiety regulation and adapting in the world. Two of the 10 have had persistent significant regrets about their previous transitions.”

Yet in the name of “civil rights,” laws are being passed at all levels of government to prevent transgender patients from receiving therapies to diagnose and treat co-occurring mental disorders.

The authors of the Case Western Reserve University study seemed to see this legal wave coming when they said:

This finding seems to be in marked contrast to the public, forensic, and professional rhetoric of many who care for transgendered adults . . . Emphasis on civil rights is not a substitute for the recognition and treatment of associated psychopathology. Gender identity specialists, unlike the media, need to be concerned about the majority of patients, not just the ones who are apparently functioning well in transition.

As one who went through the surgery, I wholeheartedly agree. Politics doesn’t mix well with science. When politics forces itself on medicine, patients are the ones who suffer.

Let’s connect the dots. Transgender people report attempting suicide at a staggering rate—above 40%. According to Suicide.org, 90% of all suicides are the result of untreated mental disorders. Over 60% (and possibly up to 90% as shown at Case Western) of transgender people have comorbid psychiatric disorders, which often go wholly untreated.

Could treating the underlying psychiatric disorders prevent transgender suicides? I think the answer is a resounding “yes.”

The evidence is staring us in the face. Tragically high numbers of transgender people attempt suicide. Suicide is the result of untreated mental disorders. A majority of transgender people suffer from untreated comorbid disorders—yet against all reason, laws are being enacted to prevent their treatment.

The article looks at different research and different scholars to make the case that just granting the people gender-reassignment surgery without trying to see what else might need fixing first is a mistake. A mistake that often results in suicides. We are not helping people who need help when we just take their desires at face value, without asking other questions.

Articles on The Public Discourse tend to be long and detailed, but this one is a must-read, because the topic is timely, and we should all have some sort of response ready when this topic comes up.

Study explores whether atheism is rooted in reason or emotion

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

From First Things, based on research reported by CNN.

A new set of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that atheists and agnostics report anger toward God either in the past or anger focused on a hypothetical image of what they imagine God must be like. Julie Exline, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University and the lead author of this recent study, has examined other data on this subject with identical results. Exline explains that her interest was first piqued when an early study of anger toward God revealed a counterintuitive finding: Those who reported no belief in God reported more grudges toward him than believers.

At first glance, this finding seemed to reflect an error. How could people be angry with God if they did not believe in God? Reanalyses of a second dataset revealed similar patterns: Those who endorsed their religious beliefs as “atheist/agnostic” or “none/unsure” reported more anger toward God than those who reported a religious affiliation.

Exline notes that the findings raised questions of whether anger might actually affect belief in God’s existence, an idea consistent with social science’s previous clinical findings on “emotional atheism.”

Studies in traumatic events suggest a possible link between suffering, anger toward God, and doubts about God’s existence. According to Cook and Wimberly (1983), 33% of parents who suffered the death of a child reported doubts about God in the first year of bereavement. In another study, 90% of mothers who had given birth to a profoundly retarded child voiced doubts about the existence of God (Childs, 1985). Our survey research with undergraduates has focused directly on the association between anger at God and self-reported drops in belief (Exline et al., 2004). In the wake of a negative life event, anger toward God predicted decreased belief in God’s existence.

The most striking finding was that when Exline looked only at subjects who reported a drop in religious belief, their faith was least likely to recover if anger toward God was the cause of their loss of belief. In other words, anger toward God may not only lead people to atheism but give them a reason to cling to their disbelief.

I think the best defense to this phenomena is for the church to not tell people that God’s job is to make them happy in this life on Earth. I think if we spent less time selling Christianity to young people as life enhancement, we would have much fewer apostates. If young people get into their minds that God is their boss, not their waiter, then that is a good preparation for the real world. And all of the challenges that Christians face – from poverty, to peer pressure, to health problems to persecution. Stop expecting happiness, that is not God’s goal for you.

I was blessed to have discovered apologetics at a very early age. This passage from C. S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” always stood out to me back then:

Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

When I was young, I shortened this quote into my motto, which lasted until just a few years  back when I finally started to feel some security. And that motto was “nothing works”. Nothing works. That’s right, so get used to it. Everything sucks, nothing works. Nothing works.

Stop expecting God to make you happy. You are a soldier, and your job is to fight to the last breath in your body for the General. Hold until relieved. You’re damn right it’s unfair. Your whole life is unfair and then you die. Get used to it. When I was in college, my Christian friends and I used to joke that even if we fought our entire lives for God and he tossed us into Hell like firewood, we would still do the same things. We were happy to serve and we didn’t think about whether we were getting what we wanted. We did not take stupid chances, but we just didn’t care about being happy. We felt that God was in the right, and sinful humans were in the wrong, and that it was enough for us to serve on the right side. We didn’t expect anyone to care how we felt, we just expected to serve. And if our first plan failed, we went on to the next plan, and the next, until we found a way to serve in spite of the unfairness of it all.

New study: father absence is a strong predictor of depression for young girls

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
If you want your children to grow up happy, commit yourself to marriage

The study is here on PubMed.

And here’s an article about it posted at The Family in America, a public policy journal.

Excerpt:

Who has benefitted from the war radical feminists have waged against marriage? Certainly not young women. A very large new Canadian study concludes that one of the strongest predictors of depression among young women is the loss of a biological parent. And it is the easy divorces that feminists have pushed for that have typically occasioned such a loss.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia, this new study isolates the factors predicting depression among Canadians ages 16 to 20. The researchers limn these factors by scrutinizing data collected between 1994 and 2007 from a nationally representative sample of 1,715 individuals tracked during this 13-year period.

Predictably, the researchers adduce evidence that such things as parental rejection and childhood anxiety predict depression between a young person’s 16th birthday and his or her 21st.  But gender makes a difference: consistent with other inquiries, this study finds that “girls reported more [depression] than boys.” However, not all girls are equally vulnerable: the data reveal that “The loss of a parent by the ages of 4 to 8 years predicted depression at ages 16 to 20 years for girls [p = 0.008] but not for boys.”

Of course, a girl can lose a parent through death. But the researchers realize that such tragedy occurs far less often than the trauma of parental divorce. Consequently, they know how to interpret parental loss as a predictor of girls’ depression at the threshold between adolescence and young adulthood. This is a finding, they realize, that fits hand-in-glove with the results of a 2008 study establishing that “the effects of parental divorce . . . differ between genders in respect to the development of depression with risk increasing for girls but not for boys.” They further realize that their study harmonizes with a 1997 study concluding that “young women whose parents had divorced reported higher levels of depression compared to young men from divorced families.”

Given the paralyzing effects of depression as “a leading cause of disability worldwide,” the researchers hope their study will lead to “targeted, specific and personalized intervention” that will curb such depression. More particularly, they hope that “girls may benefit from interventions designed to address parental loss due to death, divorce, and other causes.”

But since nothing takes a parent away from a daughter more often in the 21st century than does parental divorce, it is very clear that the kind of intervention girls most need is the kind that will keep their parents together. Just how quickly that intervention comes will depend heavily on how much reality can puncture feminist ideology.

This study makes me think of the problems that we have these days getting married and staying married. I think that there are three kinds of challenges. The first challenge is ideology, e.g. – radical feminism. The second challenge is cultural, e.g. – the hook-up culture on campus. The third challenge is political, e.g. – no-fault divorce. It seems likes the odds are really stacked against marriage-minded people.

Most people like the idea of having someone of the opposite sex commit to them for life. I write a lot about what people should be looking for in a mate. Factors that predict a person’s ability to commit, what their worldview should be, etc. But we also have to remember that we have to be turning ourselves into people who are suited to a lifetime commitment, involving self-denial and self-sacrifice.

A lot of people seem to think that if they meet the right person – the person who makes them feel good – then they won’t have to do any self-denying or any self-sacrificing. But that’s not true. Feelings change. It’s possible for two serial killers to feel good about each other, and to having things in common, but marriage isn’t about whether you “like” the other person and whether they “like” you. Marriage works when you have two people who are comfortable making commitments. Two people who are comfortable with responsibilities, expectations and obligations.

The point I am trying to make here is that not only must we be looking for someone who can be faithful, loyal, commitment through thick and thin, but we must also prepare to become a person like that. If we make choices for our own happiness every day – fun and thrills – then we are not making ourselves into the kind of people who take responsibility and make commitments.

The strange thing is that those who choose fun over and over and over again seem to make the worst decisions when it comes to choosing mates. Of course it’s easier to pick someone who is not too moral and not too religious. Then they won’t be able to judge you. They’ll just let you do whatever you want and never shame you for anything.

The problem is that marriage works best when two people are comfortable with moral obligations to others. You have to be someone who is comfortable with obligations over the long term. And you have to choose someone who has a strong sense of morality, otherwise they won’t honor their moral obligations to others. Commitment means doing what is right regardless of how you feel about it, It means giving up on the pursuit of fun, in order to build something strong that will take you into your old age.