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I attended the Child Abuse Symposium in Santa Clara County, California last Friday and heard a highly effective and important presentation by Dr. John Stirling, Director of the Center for Child Protection at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and Medical Director of Santa Clara County’s Children Shelter.

Dr. Stirling presented the findings of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, a study that has been out for years, which shows a direct link between child mistreatment and adult health and well-being.

Here is a synopsis of the primary findings of the ACE  Study performed by Dr. Vincent Felitti. Fundamentally, the study found that childhood adversity has a direct correlation with adult disfunction and poor health.

Please read the synopsis of this important study:

http://xnet.kp.org/permanentejournal/winter02/goldtolead.html

Many people believe that if a child is too young to remember wrongs done to the child, that it doesn’t matter. A number of them harm innocent children and babies in misguided attempts to relieve their own pain.

However, many recent studies have led to significant new evidence showing that a child’s brain and body are damaged for life when that child is mistreated, even where the mistreatment happened when the child was too young to remember it.

Here is a brief article about a recent study showing that childhood abuse damages the DNA of the victim and leads to difficulties in stress regulation due to actual physiological damage in the body.

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jan-feb/061

The benefits of breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized. Numerous studies show that breastfeeding not only improves immune function, reduces life-long disease, and increases IQ, it also helps prevent abuse and neglect due to the mothering hormones it releases. See UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Statement On New Breastfeeding, January 7, 2010, and UQ Research Finds the Mum Bud Bond May Reduce Neglect, The University of Queensland Australia News, December 9, 2009.

It appears that the mother’s body was created with built-in mechanisms to support the her healthy and positive rearing of infants to create physically and emotionally healthy adults. Yet human beings routinely breach this bond and create circumstances of physical and/or emotional abuse and neglect.

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. 

This is intended as a resource and destination for anyone who believes in world improvement, who wants to help others and for those who themselves need help. We will compile news, research, and information on the importance of children’s rights and parenting, two subjects that often seem to fall by the wayside in the public discourse, discounted as unimportant and minor.

Here, we will explore the concept that in fact everything we care about – world peace, health, the economy, crime,  relationships, entertainment, career – stem from parenting practices and the love that we either got or didn’t. We will cite reputable sources, we will show why problems seem to continue to cycle and why it often feels for many of us that (in the words of the late Gilda Radner) “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another!”