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A new study out of U.C. Irvine by neurologist Dr. Tallie Z. Baram has found that caressing and other sensory input triggers activity in a baby’s developing brain that improves cognitive function and builds resilience to stress.

In a study published earlier this year in The Journal of Neuroscience, Baram and colleagues identified how sensory stimuli from maternal care can modify genes that control a key messenger of stress called corticotropin-releasing hormone.

Dr. Baram’s earlier work has shown that excessive amounts of CRH in the brain’s primary learning and memory center led to the disintegration of dendritic spines, branchlike structures on neurons. Dendritic spines facilitate the sending and receiving of messages among brain cells and the collection and storage of memories.

“Communication among brain cells is the foundation of cognitive processes such as learning and memory,” says Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Sciences. “In several brain disorders where learning and similar thought processes are abnormal, dendritic spines have been found to be reduced in density or poorly developed.

“Because an infant’s brain is still building connections in these communication zones, large blasts or long-term amounts of stress can permanently limit full development, increasing the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia later in life.”

Essentially, Dr. Baram and her colleagues’ work stands for the proposition that a human brain is fundamentally influenced by the environment early in life, especially by maternal care.

See story at Psychorg.com:

http://www.physorg.com/news192209628.html

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In a very sad saga, a woman named Katie Marie Tagle dated a man named Stephen Garcia and had a baby with him. Katie Marie has said that he abused her throughout their entire relationship.

She broke up with him, became involved with another man, and had to go to family court over custody and visitation of their infant son, Wyatt.

Stephen, enraged over Katie leaving him, began making multiple threats to take Katie’s life and the baby’s life and continued to be violent toward Katie, at one point proposing to her and then physically knocking her down during a child exchange.

Upon receiving these threats, Katie went to court to seek restraining orders, each of which the judges denied indicating that they believed Katie was lying to gain advantage in the pending custody proceedings.

The day after the third courtroom denial, Stephen sent Katie an e-mail containing a story called “Necessary Evil.”

The story describes in detail Katie’s and Stephen’s relationship, and in the end, the story has two endings. In “Happy Ending,” the female character returns to the man. In “Tragic Ending,” the character takes his son to a lake, puts him to sleep with Benadryl and the baby dies. “He will have a better life with you then (sic) we can give him here,” the man tells God before taking his own life.

Katie called 9-1-1 after reading the story, and the responding deputy immediately went to the courthouse and obtained an emergency restraining order for her.

However, in Victorville court Jan. 14, Judge Robert Lemkau would not uphold the restraining order and ordered Katie to immediately give Wyatt to Stephen, as it was the day his scheduled visitation was to begin.

The judge made it clear that he believed Katie was lying to gain an unfair advantage in custody proceedings. Then, instead of ensuring the child’s safety in the event the mother might be right, the judge decided to err on the side of endangering the child by ordering that the baby immediately be handed over unsupervised to the man who repeatedly threatened to take the child’s and the mother’s lives in writing.

Here is the incredible transcript to that hearing.

http://photos.vvdailypress.com/files/multimedia/soundslides/Court.pdf

This is nothing unusual. This goes on in courts all the time. In the presence of a custody dispute, judges routinely believe that anyone claiming abuse is doing so to gain unfair advantage in cutody proceedings, and routinely order the child then placed with the abuser, regularly going so far as to completely deny custody or visitation to the reporting parent.

What is unusual in this case is that within 10 days of that hearing, Stephen took Wyatt up into the mountains and killed the baby and himself, just as he had repeatedly warned.

Here is a detailed version of this story:

http://www.mountain-news.com/articles/2010/02/04/news/news1.txt

Murder-Suicide Note by CA Man Was Posted on Net

The following is from an article by Mary Katherine Armstrong, “Child Abuse, Shame, Rage and Violence”, (Journal of Psychohistory, Summer 2003):

Dr. Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber was a prominent German doctor who set himself up as an authority on child psychology. In 1858 his books on child rearing were so popular with German parents, that some of them went through forty printings. Of course, the parents who bought the books did not even remotely suspect that they were purchasing manuals on how to expose their children to a systematic form of torture with long term effects.

Dr. Shreber’s psychology started with the newborn baby who should be drilled from the very first day to obey and refrain from crying. Master the crying baby through frightening it, and “you will be master of the child forever. From then on, a glance, a word, a single threatening gesture will be sufficient to control the child” (Miller, 1990, p.10). As a result of admonitions to avoid physical demonstrations such as stroking, cuddling and kissing, all these German infants suffered from the absence of direct, loving contact with their parents. Today’s extensive research into attachment theory makes clear the damage done by such unattuned parenting.

Germany was the only nation which gave precise details on how to discipline babies through frightening them. German children were reared according to detailed rules, designed to produce children who were cut off from their own ability to think things through and come to satisfactory personal decisions. Humiliation, these child rearing experts pronounced, is the key to producing adults who will always obey authority figures and never act in accordance with their own will. Alice Miller tell us that dependence on authority, plus intense shaming of children, produced the generation of Germans who obediently followed Hitler into the Second World War and found their emotional release in carrying out atrocities. She says:

Of course children in other countries have been and still are mistreated in the name of upbringing and care-giving, but hardly already as babies and hardly with the systematic thoroughness characteristic of the Prussian pedagogy. In the two generations before Hitler’s rise to power, the implementation of this method was brought to a high degree of perfection in Germany (1998, p.574).

While physical violence and sexual cruelty against children are to many of us clearly identifiable as abuse, emotional abuse can be harder to recognize. Certainly, most of us would not defend the parent who regularly hurls the label “stupid” at his child, but there are many forms of emotional abuse that are much more subtle.

Consider this relatively thorough overview of several studied forms of emotional abuse: Types of Emotional Abuse, Child Abuse Effects, Darlene Barriere.  With examples of each, Ms. Barriere lists six types of emotional abuse: rejecting, isolatingignoringcorruptingexploiting, and terrorizing.

Parents may hurt a child by leaving him or her alone for long periods of time – isolating/ignoring/rejecting. Several studies have shown that children in orphanages who are left in cribs for long periods of time, while having their basic needs provided for and not subjected to violence, nonetheless end up with mental and physical disorders and stunted development, in contrast with babies and children who are loved and provided with attention and affection. (Example MacArthur Foundation-financed study described in Boston Globe Article, Study on orphans sees benefit in family care, Nov. 11, 2006, The Boston Globe, showing lowered IQ in babies raised in orphanages). Ignoring one’s responsibility to show affection and positive attention to a child entrusted by nature to one’s care does have consequences.

Consider this study published by the Americal Psychological Association:  Social Exclusion Impairs Self-Regulation, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005, Vol. 88, No. 4, 589–604, finding that being excluded or rejected caused decrements in self-regulation.

Available studies lead to the conclusion that when parent causes a child feelings of isolation (through means such as leaving the child alone for lengthy periods of time, keeping the child from social activities, and/or treating the child differently than other children to create circumstances of exclusion), this creates negative consequences in the child’s brain functioning. 

From Pediatrics via USA Today, here are some illuminating statistics on our most vulnerable. In a new study, babies under age 2 are more likely to be killed by their parents than by anyone else.

Here is a list of the most common perpetrators of infant death and the percentages the study attributes to each:

Father: 33.8%
Mother: 22.5%
Mother’s boyfriend:  22.5%
Babysitter:  7%
Other male relative:  5.6%
Acquaintance:  4.2%
Foster mother:  1.4%
Unknown:  1.4%
 

Educating Dads May Help Protect Babies from Abuse, USA Today, July 31, 2009.

Horrible and disgusting . . . parents killing their own babies. Here is an article out of Texas about a mother who committed a gruesome murder of her own 3 1/2 week old infant, repeatedly stabbing, decapitating and mutilating him: San Antonio Express News, via The Houston Chronicle, July 27, 2009, San Antonio Baby Fund Stabbed, Decapitated.

Yet, what most of us in the modern westernized world don’t know is that infanticide has been documented to have been very common throughout human history in most societies, the farther back in time, the more gruesome and the more prevalent, including violent infant sacrifice in the earliest societies, as well as exposure of most babies by medieval European societies, among many other variations of the same, perhaps used as a form of birth control, perhaps worse, as a way to displace parents’ pain and suffering on innocents.

 Consider this from Larry Stephen Milner:

“But the fact of the matter is that infanticide is not an isolated phenomenon and cannot be explained by some aberrant sociopathic excuse. From sacrificial killings meant to appease the wrath of gods, to the abandonment of bastard newborns in an attempt to hide from shame, human beings have slaughtered their offspring with no less frequency than they have murdered in the pursuit of war and oppression. The sheer numbers are staggering. In every era, in every country, some degree of infanticide has been found. While certain societies have noted only sporadic cases, others reveal that 10-50% of all newborns have been killed either at birth or soon thereafter. And for the most part, these killings have proceeded with either direct participation, or the permission, of the child’s parent and societal legal codes.” Larry Stephen Milner, Hardness of Heart; Hardness of Life. The Stain of Human Infanticide. Kearney: Morris Publications, 1998, p. 3.

 

Here’s an unbelievable one from the state of Georgia – a father severely abusing his own 2 month old daughter from birth! Even more unbelievable is that these things happen every day. “Good News for 2-Month Old Child Abuse Victim,” From 11Alive.com.

It’s really not clear to me where the good news is, however. It seems from the latest studies I’ve seen that after this kind of abuse by a child’s own parents, the child’s mind is forever predisposed to pain, violence, and disorder, absent some very successful intensive long-term therapy.