Is misused neuroscience defining early years and child protection policy? "Neuroscience can now explain why early conditions are so crucial," wrote Graham Allen and Iain Duncan Smith in their 2010 collaboration, Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens.
"The more positive stimuli a baby is given, the more brain cells and synapses it will be able to develop. " Neuroscience is huge in early years policy. This week, in what's been characterised as the largest shake-up of family law in a generation, the 26-week time limit for adoption proceedings has come into force, much of it justified by the now-or-never urgency of this set of beliefs, that the first three years (or sometimes first 18 months) hardwire a baby's brain, either give it or deny it the capacity for a full life.
This is the engine of what is known as the First Three Years movement, which has transfixed politicians from across the spectrum. Here's the thing: what if it's over-baked? Val Gillies, a researcher in social policy at South Bank University, takes the scans head-on. The Determinist Myth of the Early Years. Tuesday 16 July 2013 Whether based on attachment theory or neurobabble, the claim that human beings are set in stone by the age of three is groundless.
The deterministic myth of the ‘early years’ But is it really the case that experiences in infancy have a determining effect on the rest of our lives?
Is the quality of parents’ interactions so important that it can explain how the baby turns out as an adult? Is Obama right to talk about infancy as a ‘window of opportunity’ to develop a child’s full potential’? When the window purportedly shuts, after infancy, is it too late to turn things around? Infant determinists invariably draw on attachment theory, the Ceausescu-era orphanages in Romania and neuroscience to back up their claims about human development. I will take a critical look at all three. Attachment Theory The UK psychiatrist John Bowlby argued that an important difference between ‘vulnerable’ and ‘resilient’ children is found in the quality of their earliest relationships, particularly their attachment to a mother figure.
There is criticism, however. English and Romanian Adoptee Study. Early Neglect Alters Kids' Brains. What became of Romania's neglected orphans? BBC secret filming of the conditions in Romanian institutions A BBC investigation has uncovered appalling conditions and abuse in adult institutions in Romania, 20 years after the fall of Nicolai Ceausescu exposed conditions in the country's orphanages.
As the care worker unlocked the door and pushed it open, a musty stench of body odour and urine filled the air. There were 10 people crammed into the room, bed-bound on rotting mattresses and lying in their own faeces, some two to a bed. Chugani. Romanian orphans. Background Under Nicolae Ceauşescu, both abortion and contraception were forbidden, leading to a rise in birth rates. In October 1966, the Decree 770 was enacted, which banned abortion, except in exceptional cases. This resulted in a sudden increase in the birth rate, especially during the years of 1967, 1968 and 1969. Children born in these years are popularly known as decreței (from the Romanian language word "decret", meaning "decree", diminutive "decrețel").
This increase in the number of births resulted in many children being abandoned, and these children were joined in the orphanages by disabled and mentally ill people. Together, these vulnerable groups were subjected to institutionalised neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and the use of drugs to control behaviour. Conditions in orphanages Orphanages lacked both medicines and washing facilities, and children were subject to sexual and physical abuse. The U.S. Improvements Statistics Childhood neglect erodes the brain. In perhaps the most famous study of childhood neglect, researchers have closely tracked the progress, or lack of it, in children who lived as infants in Romania’s bleak orphanages and are now teenagers.
A new analysis now shows that these children, who display a variety of behavioral and cognitive problems, have less white matter in their brains than do a group of comparable children in local families. The affected brain regions include nerve bundles that support attention, general cognition, and emotion processing. The work suggests that sensory deprivation early in life can have dramatic anatomical impacts on the brain and may help explain the previously documented long-term negative effects on behavior. But there’s some potential good news: A small group of children who were taken out of orphanages and moved into foster homes at age 2 appeared to bounce back, at least in brain structure.
The orphanages have sharply reduced their intake today. Bick agrees on that point. Romanian Orphans Investigation. AIMS: One of the consequences of psychological research into the effects of institutionalisation - see Separation, Maternal Deprivation and Evaluating Bowlby - was to greatly reduce the extent to which children were placed in such care.
As a result, there was little opportunity to replicate such studies until the overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu at the end of 1989. Under President Ceaucescu, it had been a legal requirement for women to have 5 children. In such a poor country, many parents could not afford to keep their children; so they were handed over to the State where they were kept in massive, very poor quality orphanages. Romanian Orphans Investigation. PSYCH3: Rutter’s Study on Romanian Orphans Romanian Orphans.
Rutter’s Study on Romanian Orphans Romanian Orphans: In 1989 the Ceausescu regime was overthrown and it was found that there were between 100 to 300 thousand school-aged children in orphanages, many of whom had suffered sever emotional and physical deprivation.
Rutter (WRONGER) did a study on these children who had been adopted by Westerners after having lived with either a sense of deprivation or privation. Initial findings showed that the children had poor health (they were malnourished and had infectious diseases). They also had behaviour issues such as temper tantrums, excessive rocking, insomnia and indiscriminate friendliness. 111 children adopted younger than 2 years old from Romania to England were compared with 52 children of similar ages adopted within England. Rutter also studied the issues relating to attachment and did not find the same positive findings. Another study conducted in Canada looked at similar Romanian orphans adopted by Canadian families. Summarising attachment: