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March 2008
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Early Neglect Leads to Adult Inflammation

Children who are abused and neglected are more likely to experience chronic inflammation and depression as adults, according to this piece from Science Daily.

Andrea Danese of King's College London carried out the study of 1,000 New Zealanders born in 1972 or 1973. She evaluated them every three years until they were 32. According to the article,
Individuals with current depression and a history of childhood maltreatment were more likely to have a high level of inflammation at age 32, as measured by the presence of the chemical high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in the blood. Those with depression but no history of childhood maltreatment did not have this increased risk.

I think that this inflammation is related to a weak oxytocin response. Oxytocin is the anti-cortisol, soothing inflammation and promoting healing. Our brains develop the oxytocin response after we're born, in response to the care and soothing we get from our primary caregiver, most often our mothers. If our mothers don't provide that care, we never learn to let go with this calming, healing neurochemical/hormone.

This study shows another way that love and connection with others are tied to physical health.

See also, Neglect as Damaging as Abuse for Kids.


Neglect as Damaging for Kids as Abuse

A new study shows that children who are neglected in the first two years of life are much more likely to be aggressive by the time they're four, according to this article in Science Daily.

Neglect is twice as prevalent as abuse in child maltreatment cases reported in the United States.

The lack of attention devoted to the problem of neglect -- the so-called 'neglect of neglect' -- is a long-standing concern in the child welfare field," said study co-author Jon Hussey, research assistant professor of maternal and child health in the UNC School of Public Health and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center. "Despite being more common than abuse, we know relatively little about the impact of neglect on children."

The results of the study are not surprising, but it is good ammunition for educators and people who work with new mothers and young children. As Allan Schore, the guru of attachment neuroscience, points out, a human infant left alone in the wild would quickly die. Babies that went into high alert and screamed their heads off when dropped or left alone were more likely to survive, so this recognition is part of the baby's automatic reactions at birth.

Babies who are left alone too much often get stuck in the fight-or-flight response; as they get older, and are capable of hitting or kicking to defend themselves, it's natural that they react to perceived threats with aggression.


The Virginity Dilemma

Kaya at Afropologe riffs on a recent New York Times magazine article on True Love Revolution.

True Love Revolution is self-described as a "on-sectarian student-run organization at Harvard College dedicated to the promotion of premarital sexual abstinence. We strive to present another option to our peers regarding sex-related issues, endorsing ideas of abstinence and chastity as a positive alternative for ethical and health reasons. "

According to the NYT, the club's ideas include:

... the belief that “ ‘safe sex’ is not safe”; that even the most effective methods of birth control can fail; that early sexual activity is strongly associated with all manner of terrible outcomes, from increased risk of depression to greater likelihood of marital infidelity, divorce and maternal poverty. Premarital abstinence, on the other hand, is held up by True Love Revolution as improving health, promoting better relationships and, best of all, enabling “better sex in your future marriage.”


I think the current leader of the organization makes an important point:

Conventional feminism, she explained, teaches that control of your body means the freedom to have sex without consequences — sex like a man. “I am an unconventional feminist,” Fredell said, in the sense that she asserts control by choosing not to have sex — by telling men, no, absolutely not.

I was very involved in feminist culture in the 70s, and we did sometimes lose sight of the idea that freedom of choice includes choosing not to do what others are doing.

Kaya takes issue with one student's comments about wanting to abstain from sex with her boyfriend so she won't become too bonded and then hurt if they break up.

I think this may be an oversimplification -- and so may True Love Revolution's concepts, and/or the article's -- but she is very funny and her post is worth a read. She helps define the contradictions and confusion we all face in our ultra-modern society.

BTW, the folks at Afropologe have a no-quoting policy for their blog, which seems awfully weird and unbloggy, but whatever.