Blogging with Dr. Susan

 

Blogging with Dr. Susan

Follow Susan through Hong Kong, Macau, Zhuhai, Shanghai, Suzhou and Beijing

 

I assume blog readers are child-minders, child-providers and parental child-raisers. This blog topic is also on the minds of researchers who study parenting trends! Contemporary families are cruising so fast with so much pace and busy-ness that the norm is negatively affecting children and youth from infants in child care to teenagers in action! Here.s what I learned from Jim Garbarino, Mel Levine, Robert Brooks, Dr. James Comer, to name prestigious researchers!

Fast.paced adaptable, high stress family life is in style. Families wake up to school, jobs, car rides, buses and snacks as if each day is a instantaneous .fresh start.. Families live according to a daily schedule that changes every day, that is somewhat the same but often different and .new.. Children react physically and emotionally to routine inconsistency and stress, shifting from high energy to sleepy states, compliance to defiance, kindness to meanness and adopting the same merry-go-round lifestyle for themselves...

Researchers find there is an upside and some hope in this decade of a fast-paced life! If families take five minutes a day to start a quick, but attentive conversation about each day.s activities and follow up with contact by cell phone or notes, problems loom small less often. Kids quickly feel included, are more helpful at home, and have higher expectations about cooperation day to day!

Researcher, Dr. Robert Brooks, concerned with a .hot topic.: .resiliency in children,. recently told an audience in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, that mothers and dads need to modify their own behavior to model resiliency as a skill for their young children on a daily basis. As he describes it, young children, even 18 month-olds, are more than ready to learn adaptation and cooperation as well as compliance with adult requests and commands.

On the negative side, Dr. Brooks insists, if parents do not help children consistently, they do not naturally .use. their resilient and resourceful abilities and can become .behavior problems. in school and at home, ignoring parents or teachers and refusing to follow directions and family rules! What is ultimately most dangerous for children who do not have consistent parents and general family rules is that they acquire social behaviors such as empathy, kindness or compassion toward others much later in life when it can become a problem forming relationships.

According to my research (Turben, 1998) studying kindergarten age children who were observed initially at 18-36 months of age, personality traits were consistent after five years. This supports the notion that toddlers who were more resilient and cooperative maintained those skills and behaviors five years later.

T.Berry Brazelton, pediatrician and advocate of the capacity of infants, also notes that at the moment of birth, parents literally fall in love with their infants, adding that the immediacy of the sensation of love becomes the basis of social and intellectual abilities in infancy. Falling in love extends to loving care, allowing parents to teach their babies social skills and values and ways of living.

Many are surprised by the competency of infants and the resiliency they possess. If you are one of those, let us know how smart your child is, and how he or she got that way! Dr. Susan



Future Trends: Raising Children in 2010

I assume blog readers are child-minders, child-providers and parental child-raisers.  This blog topic is also on the minds of researchers who study parenting trends!  Contemporary families are cruising so fast with so much pace and busy-ness that the norm is negatively affecting children and youth from infants in child care to teenagers in action!  Here’s what I learned from Jim Garbarino, Mel Levine, Robert Brooks, Dr. James Comer, to name prestigious researchers!

Fast–paced adaptable, high stress family life is in style.  Families wake up to school, jobs, car rides, buses and snacks as if each day is a instantaneous “fresh start.”  Families  live according to a daily schedule that changes every day, that is somewhat the same but often different and “new.”  Children react physically and emotionally to routine inconsistency  and stress, shifting from high energy to sleepy states, compliance to defiance, kindness to meanness and adopting the same merry-go-round lifestyle for themselves…..

Researchers find there is an upside and some hope in this decade of a fast-paced life!  If families take five minutes a day to start a quick, but attentive conversation about each day’s activities and follow up with contact by cell phone or notes, problems loom small less often. Kids quickly feel included, are more helpful at home, and have higher expectations about cooperation day to day!

Researcher, Dr. Robert Brooks, concerned with a “hot topic”: “resiliency in children,” recently told an audience in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, that mothers and dads need to modify their own behavior to model resiliency as a skill for their young children on a daily basis.  As he describes it, young children, even 18 month-olds, are more than ready to learn adaptation and cooperation as well as compliance with adult requests and commands.

On the negative side, Dr. Brooks insists, if parents do not help children  consistently, they do not naturally “use” their resilient and resourceful abilities and can become “behavior problems” in school and at home, ignoring parents or teachers and  refusing to follow directions and family rules!  What is ultimately most dangerous for children who do not have consistent parents and general family rules is that they acquire social behaviors such as empathy, kindness or compassion toward others much later in life when it can become a problem forming relationships.

According to my research (Turben, 1998) studying kindergarten age children who were observed initially at 18-36 months of age, personality traits were consistent after five years.  This supports the notion that toddlers who were more resilient and cooperative maintained those skills and behaviors five years later.

T.Berry Brazelton, pediatrician and advocate of the capacity of infants, also notes that at the moment of birth, parents literally fall in love with their infants, adding that the immediacy of the sensation of love becomes the basis of social and intellectual abilities in infancy.  Falling in love extends to loving care, allowing parents to teach their babies social skills and values and ways of living.

Many are surprised by the competency of infants and the resiliency they possess. If you are one of those, let us know how smart your child is, and how he or she got that way!   Dr. Susan



How A Baby Learns to Love

Dr. T.Berry Brazelton, BOATON Children’s Hospital, speaks on LOVE……… Redbook, May ’71 (this is not only a timeless but a timely piece today for parents and families!  We, families-on-the-run, are not paying attention to the lessons of infancy (comments by Dr. Turben, blog 6/30/2010)

How a Baby Learns to Love

During the past decades a number of child-development specialists have started a new trend in the scientific study of babies. They began to sneak off one by one from their consulting rooms and their laboratories and camped out in homes where new babies had just arrived. I was one of them. We took along pencils and paper, cameras and tape recorders and said to baffled mothers, “Don’t mind us. Just do everything you ordinarily do in the course of the day. We want the baby to teach us a few things.”

The mothers quite frankly thought we had lost our minds. But if the doctors wanted to learn how to diaper an infant or how to get a spoonful of mashed peas into a baby with a mind of his own, the mothers felt, well, just go ahead. Actually there are no benefits to the parents; but sometimes if a mother needs an hour of emergency baby sitting, it was a comfort to know that a Harvard professor was available who could entertain the baby with the kidubon bird whistle he kept in his kit.

Among the many things we scientists wanted to learn in this camp-out was one very exclusive question: How does the baby learn to love? Since no infant has ever been known to say to his mother, “I love you,” the scientific work had to attack the problem by inference. What are the signs of love and attachment during the first eighteen months of life?  Over a period of years many of the scientists found agreement about certain signs.

If we follow the growth of the infant’s human attachments from the first day of his life to the end of his first year, we find the he responds to his mother and his father in ways that show increasing preference. And finally we see that he values his parents above all other persons in his small world. And because the mother is the primary figure during the first year of life, the selective responses to the mother became a sound guide for all the scientists engaged in this work.

What are the signs?  During the first six months the baby has the rudiments of a love language; there is the language of the smile, the language of vocal sound-making, and the language of the embrace. It’s the essential vocabulary of love before we can yet speak of love. (In 18 years, when the baby is grown and “falls in love” for the first time, he will woo his partner through the language of the smile, through the utterance of endearments and the joy of the embrace.)

How does the smile become part of the vocabulary of love? The smile is innate, the universal greeting sign of our species. Already in the early weeks of life it appears in deep sleep; then gradually it is elicited more and more frequently by external stimuli. At three months of age the one stimulus that will automatically produce a smile is the human face. At this age any human face will elicit a smile, which seems a poor reward for maternal devotion, but between three months and six months the smile becomes a smile of preference – for the mother.  The baby smiles more frequently for his mother than for others and his smiles for her are bigger and more joyful. During the same period he “talks” more, jabbers more fluently, with his mother than with a stranger. And if he is frightened or has taken a bad bump, he cannot be comforted by “just anyone” any longer; he seeks the comfort of his mother’s arms. His mother’s arms and her lap, the closeness of her body, have a magical quality in soothing him and creating the feeling that all is well.

At this stage, then, the baby has discriminated his mother from others, shows preference for her and associates her with the satisfaction of his hunger and body needs. But, we ask ourselves doubtfully, is this “love”? Or yet, perhaps are these signs of selection, of intimate exchange and partnership that will lead him to love

Between six and twelve months something new begins to emerge. The baby now begins to show us another way in which he places special value upon his mother. While he has always been sociable and smiled for the uncle who wiggles his ears or for the lady in the red dress, he now begins to become downright unsociable. In place of a smile they may get a look of cold scrutiny, or a frown, or regrettably a howl of indignation.

The infant’s parents are quick to offer apologies. “I don’t know-what’s got into him! He used to be so friendly.” What’s-got-into-him is something the baby specialists called strange reaction, perfectly normal behavior between six and fifteen months. It means, very simply, that his mother for the time being is the center of his world and the “stranger” is somehow an intruder, someone who unsettles the intimacy and safety of the private world. Typically, after the baby produces a negative reaction to the stranger his eyes will begin to search the room for his mother, and when he finds her face he bestows a big smile upon her and then may make overtures to be picked up.

Odd as it may sound, this behavior toward strangers is one the signs of the baby’s increasing affection for his mother. All love, even in later life, begins with a feeling of exclusiveness. “You are the one who matters – only you.” It’s the magic circle of love that in infancy includes the father and a few other choice people but not yet the stranger. In a few months, by the way, the baby will receive strangers quite hospitably again, but that’s because he is secure enough to feel that the magic circle is no longer threatened by outsiders.

At around the same time, about eight months of age, the baby shows his growing love for his mother in still another way. He complains when he is separated from her. He may not object if she leaves him to go to the kitchen, but his face is very likely now to pucker up when he sees her in her hat and coat. And his baby sitters may report that he complains loudly for a time after she leaves.

“Do you think he’s spoiled?” some mothers and fathers will ask. But he’s not spoiled. At this time his mother is still the most important person in his world. And he behaves the way all of us behave when a loved person is absent for a while: “I can’t bear to be without you. I am lost..I am not myself when you’re gone…You are my world, and without you the world is empty.”   If all this seems too extravagant to put into the minds of babies, we need only watch an infant of this age whose mother has been called away on an emergency for several days or a baby who has been isolated from his mother in a hospital. The face of grief is no different at eight months from that as 30 years of age. Loss of appetite, sleeplessness, refusal of comfort from someone else – for both ages the symptoms are the same.

From this short sketch we can see that by the end of the first year the baby has gone through a sequence of phases in his human attachments-from simple recognition of the mother to recognition of her as a special person to the discovery that she is the source of joy, the satisfier of body hungers, the comforter, the protector, the indispensable person of his world. In short, he has learned to love.  This is what we learned from scientific camping out in the homes of babies.

Another group of scientists chose to study babies who had been reared from birth in institutions as well as babies reared in their own families. And they emerged with a different story.  In the institutions – even the best ones – no baby has a mother or a mother substitute. There may be 12 or 30 babies in a ward with two or four nurses or aides for each of three shifts.

No one person, no matter how much she loves babies, can serve as mother substitute under these circumstances. The infant is fed, bathed and changed by a rotating staff. In many institutions it saves staff time to feed the baby by means of a propped-up bottle. A good part of his time is spent in a crib during the first year of life.  At three months of age, when our home-grown babies smiled in response to the human face, the babies in institutions smiled too.

The smiles were not frequent, some of the scientists noted, but they were there. The babbling sounds that babies make at three months were made by the institutional babies also – but their vocalizations were less frequent than those of family-reared babies and seemed to have more limited range of sounds.

Then between three months and 12 months of age something that should happen to the smile and something that should happen to vocalizations did not appear in the institutional babies. At a time when the home-reared baby showed preference with huge smiles from mother and father, the institutional baby smiled differently at everyone he saw.

And around six to 12 months, the time when the family baby reserved his smile for the members of the magic circle and showed negative reactions toward strangers, the institutional baby behaved no differently toward the daily nurses and attendants and casual visitors to the nursery whom he had never seen before.  Everyone had equal value in his eyes because no one had special value. Anyone created a diversion in the monotony of the nursery day could get a smile.

During a period when the family-reared infant began to carry on “conversations” in gibberish with his mother and later when he began to imitate sound (around eight months of age), the institutional baby had a restricted range of sounds. He was not imitating sounds; and the melodies of speech, which emerge at this time like an absurd parody of English, were not present at all.  How odd! We think. These institutional babies were exposed to all the ordinary conversational exchanges of nurses and aides; they were not being reared in isolation. But findings such as these are very common among institutional babies. From this we learn that while the brain is “programmed so that a full range of articulations are available to every normal infant” the organization of these sounds into patterns and the use of these sounds from communication is entirely dependent upon the existence of human partners.

We can confirm this very simply as adults. It is possible to live in a foreign country for months, exposed to the native language day after day, and not acquire ever the rudiments of discourse in that language if there is not relationship with a native who speaks the language, some that provides the condition for dialogue.  The institutional babies had heard the sounds of English all around them, but because there are no partners to provide the intimate exchange that is vital to that acquisition of language, they were slow to acquire the sounds and the cadences of that language.

And if they remained in the institution for the early years of life, speech became one the areas of severe retardation in their development.  How did the institutional infants react to separation from the nurses and aides who were the only representatives of a human world?

We know that babies reared in their own homes show distress at a mother’s absence, and if absences are prolonged, there is terrible grief. We understand that pain at separation is another measure of the child’s love of his mother. But the institutional baby showed no signs that the absence of one or another of the people who cared for him had any meaning to him.

If the red-haired nurse took a two-week vacation, there were five other nurses who performed identical duties and were interchangeable parts in the human machine that fed, bathed and changed him.  In many of the institutions, babies were placed in foster homes in the second and third years, and the possibilities of human bonds were opened up to them. But some of the babies spent their early years in the institution without human partners, without intimacy. And these children offered science the most chilling testimony for the power of love.

At the age of three and four they were already different from other children. They continued to show by their behavior that one adult was interchangeable with any other adult, and they were measurably retarded in speech and abstract thinking.  In follow-up studies in later childhood and in adult life the scientists found many of them in social agencies, in clinics and in courts.

Their life problems were in all cases different, of course, but they all suffered from the most extreme effects of love-starved infancy. They had one thing in common – they were unable to form stable human bonds, unable to love. They were rootless and unbound, without partners or often, with casual and sifting partners, since no one partner was valued.  Of the children who had spent their early years in institutions, some managed to become relatively well adjusted adults, able to make meaningful, if limited, human associations. But many of the children who had never known physical closeness or the certainty of satisfaction of body hungers between man and women, who seemed to have no pleasure in body intimacy and whose sexual appetites were impoverished or bizarre.

Aggression, which is normally modified in the early years often through the agency love, appeared in these loveless men and women in erratic forms, sometimes fused with eccentric sexual practices. The human capacity for empathy, for feeling oneself into another personality, was simply absent. And because there can be no conscience without the capacity to feel for another, there was a vacant space in personality where conscience would have been.

Once again the scientific question led back to the first years of life. What was it, we asked ourselves, that transpired between an ordinary baby and his parents that usually guaranteed the capacity for love in later life? Surely since the dawn of mankind and in every society the human family had produced and nurtured babies who grew into men and women capable of experiencing enduring love and physical joy. In contemporary “primitive” societies, simple and illiterate parents achieve this miracle by simply doing what their ancestors have been doing for thousands of years.

It appears that the “program” for infant-mother attachment was laid down in our biological ancestry. It has much in common with the infant-rearing practices of all mammals and has close resemblance to infant rearing among the high primates.  In the biological program we inherit, an infant leaves intrauterine life and comes into a radically changed environment.

He is cushioned against the shock of the journey:  From the water world to the land world, from enclosed space to unclosed space – but he brings little instinctive baggage into the world to ensure his adaptation or his survival.

As a specimen of our genus, he is “unfinished” by comparison with the newborn of other species.  At the end of his journey there are provisions in the program that the woman who sheltered and nourished him in intrauterine life should be the woman to shelter and nourish outside the womb. Body intricacy, the shelter of enclosing arms and nourishment are all marvelously contrived in the program to center around the mother’s breast.