The first day of Dr. Allan Schore's seminar on Children in Trauma is almost over. It's inspiring to have the current theories of attachment and childhood brain development laid out so clearly and substantively. Schore is including many references to the supporting scientific literature. I have reams of notes and an immense amount to process -- as does everyone else.
The audience is a mix of social workers, counselors, child advocates, attorneys and others in the legal and social welfare systems.
It's daunting to hear just how critical nurturing is to an infant, and what deep damage can be done.
In Tronick's "still-face experimental paradigm of traumatic abuse, a mother is asked to briefly show a fearful expression and then to let her face go completely still. Both mother and infant get stressed when she is asked to make the dead face. Shore emphasized this: "Not only when the mother makes a fear face, but also when she makes a dead face, it's extremely stressful to the child."
In fact, in the tests, the baby typically goes into a defensive strategy of massive disengagement -- the same you see in babies who have been extremely neglected, for example, in "Spitz hospitalism" and Roumanian orphans. But this happens so quickly. Schore said, "We don't need to separate mother and baby. The defensive strategy of massive disengagement happens in just 20 seconds."
But there is plenty of hope. One quick takeaway is that, just as in a marriage, a child can handle a fair amount of stress as long as the mother or caregiver reconnects with the child afterward.
Schore says that for this reason, neglect is much more damaging than abuse.