Would it surprise you if I told you that love literally helps develop the brain of a baby and toddler? And that children who’ve been abused or neglected actually have underdeveloped areas of their brain?
Research has proven it’s true. The two brain scans on the left are from a team of researchers from the ChildTrauma Academy, which show a healthy brain of a 3 year old on the left, with the smaller and underdeveloped cortex of a 3 year old who has experienced extreme neglect, on the right.
When a baby is born, they still have much growing to do. From their head to their toes, everything is growing rapidly. The brain is no exception, and it even takes longer for the brain to fully develop than it takes for us to reach our final height. The Pre Frontal Cortext (PFC), an area responsible for controlling and processing emotion, does not fully develop until the age of 25.
Here’s the most important thing to remember, 75% to 80% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 3. How it develops is largely dependent on environmental factors; that is, the type of care they received. With that in mind, it’s not exactly a mystery of how violent individuals come to be, it’s an issue of nurture. Mass murderers for instance don’t “just snap”, we see a very similar pattern of how they were raised and almost every mass murderer and murderer-alike experienced neglect and trauma during early childhood.
If a child is neglected and abused during the formative years, the changes that take place in the brain lead to an increased risk of negative health and behavioral issues, including drug addition, psychosis, and depression.
The Solution is Love & Understanding
While every parent loves their children, many get the understanding part wrong. This is what leads to problems in the development of our children’s brains, and ultimately the development of common behavioral issues that parents have to deal with later on down the road. There’s a growing debate about what actually constitutes abuse and neglect. What one parent believes is necessary and beneficial, another believes is unnecessary and detrimental. It’s this growing rift that’s beginning to transform the landscape of American parenting culture.
Physical Child Abuse
All parents can agree that punching their child in the face is abuse. The debate that we see today is, “At what point is the use of physical touch as a means to correct behavior considered abuse?” If clenching a fist and implanting it onto any part of our children’s body is abuse, then is opening our hand and slapping them not abuse? Why or why not? Here at Parenticular, we have our own beliefs on this subject.
Think of physical punishment as a linear chart. Where on the very left axis we have no physical punishment, no touch; and on the right we have extreme physical abuse, the most egregious physical violation short of murder. Being hit with a belt might be more right of center, spanking on the butt might fall left of center and a slap on the wrist might fall close to no physical punishment.
The point we believe worth considering is regardless of how much force is being used in attempt to correct behavior, physical force is still being used. Certainly, from a child’s perspective, they’d prefer being slapped on the wrist opposed to being brutally beaten. But this begs the question, if a lot of physical aggression can change the development of a child’s brain, can a little physical aggression change the brain too? There’s an abundance of evidence that seems to confirm this hypothesis.
Please note: If you spank or have spanked your child, do not take this as an attack. Many spank their children in the belief that it’s not only necessary, but obligatory. The only thing we ask you to do is to keep an open mind and remain receptive to new information. If you believe spanking and the use of force is not harmful, tell us why in the comments. As parents, we all have the same goal; a more prosperous, stress-free and peaceful environment for ourselves and our children.
Love has a positive effect on the developing brain. Loving touch and peaceful interactions are what we need to do more of as parents. With research showing how important nurture is in the development of children and their resulting behavior, we’re beginning to see that what is done to children, they will do to society. We believe a peaceful home will eventually usher in a peaceful world.
Love, and do absolutely nothing else.