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Posts Tagged ‘trauma bond’

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Even when I stumble upon a website such as this one, Women of Green, containing a post entitled, “Can Western Women Save the World? The Dalai Lama Thinks So” I feel lost and overwhelmed in response.  In my reality, there are just too many pieces, too many parts.

Perhaps it might be especially because of my severe disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment ‘disorder-pattern’ that I am left so unmistakably influenced more by what feels ‘broken into pieces’ than many other people are.  When I follow anything that might concern me about the state of our world I end up at the same point in my thinking and in my emotions.  I am left as if I am standing over a pile of tiny shards that are all that’s left of something precious that was once whole and is now smashed to smithereens.

(See this excellent article that I believe applies to what happened to my mother in her infant-childhood to make turn her into the raging super-abusive ‘anti-mother’ whose trajectory of disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment was so different than mine:

Forecasting Aggression:  Toward a New Interdisciplinary Understanding of What Makes Some Troubled Youth Turn Violent By Daniel S. Schechter, M.D.)

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Having been the recipient of my (Borderline) mother’s insane, intensive, brutalizing and violent abuse of me from birth and for the following 18 years of my childhood I was forced to grow, develop and build a body-brain-mind-self without having any safe and secure human attachment relationship that could have allowed me to put the pieces together of my own shattered early life.  Every single time (except for my relationship with nature) that I EVER tried to pursue anything that could have brought me happiness, my mother was ALWAYS there to smash me again.  Smash, bash, crash!  My mother was an absolute expert on applying any force of any kind possible (and from her point of view, necessary) to BREAK LINDA.

After writing my recent post, +LEARNING HOW TO CHANGE PEACEFULLY (leaving the trauma-drama OUT!), I have spent most of my waking moments outside working on and in my garden.  The amount of time I have spent out there specifically thinking about anything has been minimal.  The ‘me’ that’s now doing that work is in the process of BECOMING – different.

Because of my dissociation disorder, I have to be very aware and very vigilant (as best as I can be) of my own process of change.  In this past week I have been LIVING through something I have not put specific words to:  I am coming to understand more clearly that for me there is a difference between how I see change, transformation and transitioning.  My innate body-brain circuitry and pathways of dissociation happened inside of my growing and developing body-brain-mind-self BECAUSE of the horrendous abuse I was chronically forced to experience.  As a result my universe has ALWAYS been about the parts and not about the whole.

I am transitioning.  I have always been transitioning.  At this moment of my life at age 59 my own process of transitioning has moved itself into the forefront of my focus.  It is my own transitioning that I am investigating now – by living it at the same time I am becoming consciously aware of what I am experiencing.

This entire post is actually about one unifying topic:  God.  I never set out to write a blog about God.  Yet in my own search for LIFE, which I see as a search for HEALING (because I was so totally wounded and carry those wounds within this body that trauma built), I don’t believe I will be able to move forward without a thorough investigation about what all things ‘God-invested’ means to me.

God.  I believe the entire accumulation of physiological (on every level) consequence that my first 18 years of severe trauma and abuse did to me has greatly complicated my ability to ‘have a meaningful relationship’ with God.  In order to ‘make my own peace’ with my own essential self I believe I have to face my own brokenness from a spiritual point of view.

This is a time of great transition for me.  I have not decided how I am going to process this time of transition on my blog.  I don’t care how anyone approaches their own belief in God.  I see God as the Unknowable Essence, the Omnipotent Being, the Greatest Mystery and the Creator of All Things.  Being able to break through my own dissociation to heal IN SPITE of that brokenness (that lack of continuity of self-in-the-world) is not a minor step for me.

In my personal investigation about what’s wrong in our nation and in our world that so many little and big people are being allowed to suffer so greatly I simply hit an immovable wall that showed me there is no answer on this globe to solve the brokenness in this whole world unless and until a spiritual solution is found – both personally and combined in love and compassion with masses of others within our species.

That we will have to leave behind what is divisive in our thinking and in our actions in favor of keeping what we share in common about our belief in our Higher Power means to me that we can choose to look inside for what sustains all the goodness of life rather than continue to fight internally and with one another over what is wrong.  Our species is as broken and ‘dissociated’ as a unit as I often feel inside of my own self.  But staying in a place of wounded brokenness will NEVER allow us to find solutions.

However we mutually come to share in bigger and bigger and bigger healing circles that will bring about bigger and bigger and bigger ripples of healing around our globe will not happen through clashes of disagreements.  Healing happens when ‘forces are joined’ on the PLUS rather than on the MINUS side of life.  It seems obvious to me that all abuse is about the minus.  I will always need my transitions to be about the plus.

Wholeness, call it ‘holistic’ if that’s the best word we can find in our language, seems to me to be the exact opposite of what I experienced in my unbelievably sick home of origin.  Whether we are considering our own needs for positive transitioning or the needs of others (including the ‘environment’), we are considering a whole that I believe the Creator made as a WHOLE UNIT that functions in wholeness the same way our own body does.  I am exploring that wholeness.

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+UNITED NATIONS CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK LINKS

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For all the severe trauma, neglect, abuse and malevolent treatment I endured during the first 18 years of my life, I have yet to thoroughly explore the topic of the book I am highlighting here today as it applies to my own life.  I have known for many years that I had no relationship with my mother or father that was outside the range of what is described as a ‘trauma bond’ or as a ‘betrayal bond’.  I had no safe and secure attachment relationship with ANYONE during those 18 years.  I have evidently taken that fact so fore granted that it is only now as I continue to explore the CONTEXT of the Bigger Picture in which the trauma that happened to me within that I am NOW directly faced with either paying some attention to what these kinds of bonds actually are – or not.

From a rather detached point of view I find it intriguing to learn this about myself:  I did not move to the point where I could directly consider these damaged-damaging kinds of bonds UNTIL I reached a point where my interest and concern became focused not on my own story, but rather on the suffering of OTHER infants and children CURRENTLY trying to grow up in our nation as they suffer from all kinds of deprivations and traumas within malevolent environments.

As I noted in some of my recent posts, it is within the CONTEXT and within the Bigger Picture that I share the overwhelming suffering of my abusive-traumatic infant-childhood with LOTS of other people.  These ‘other people’ are NOT only grownups.  They are ALSO infants, toddlers, childrens and teens who are suffering NOW – in real-time.  As I have pursued my own understandings about what happened to me from the PAST on into the present real-time moment, all boundaries and distinctions I might have had about ‘my suffering’ and the suffering of others have vanished.

In this dissolution of distinctions about suffering I am left taking a closer look at the conditions within our American nation that are not only allowing growing numbers of our offspring to suffer, but that are contributing to this suffering.  I realized a long time ago that especially in regard to infant abuse our culture has built into itself such a taboo against harming little ones that we don’t even want to THINK about let alone TALK about the fact that infant abuse does happen!

Now I feel like I am broaching yet another taboo subject – what is wrong with America.  As I take a look at this subject I feel I am wandering around alone in a very dark bramble thicket – but I will not change my direction.  Forward I go, no matter how uncomfortable this stage of my journey is.

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I will be continuing to post further excerpts from the book I introduced in last evening’s post, America’s Sacred Calling: Building a New Spiritual Reality (2010) by John Fitzgerald Medina.   At the same time I admit to myself I am reaching WAY OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE as I tackle the information Medina presents.  My realization is that I am unable to make any further progress toward understanding suffering in the context of the nation I am a part of if I don’t at the same time understand that I have a BETRAYAL BOND with America.

As members of a social species we are programmed in our DNA to seek protection by being with others of our kind.  We are most comfortable being a part of the larger group at the same time that our innate physiological attachment ‘wiring’ makes certain that if we move too far out of our ‘group comfort zone’ – we will FEEL IT as discomforting, threatening and downright scary!  We will feel this threat in terms of lack of safety and security at the same time our attachment systems go into full play.

I suspect that most people instinctively align themselves with their own nation in the same way that infants and children align themselves with the caregivers they are dependent on for protection-need fulfillment.  Dependency based on NEED can be a powerful force that keeps us even as adults from asking questions and surveying factual information that MIGHT BURST OUR BUBBLE about anyone we are reliant on for protection-need fulfillment – including facts about our own nation.

In this context of examining context I present the following information on ‘betrayal bonds’.  This information comes from this book:

The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships (1997) by Patrick J. Carnes

Product Description

Patrick Carnes presents an in-depth study of exploitive relationships: why they form, who is most susceptible, and how they become so powerful. He explains to readers how to recognize when traumatic bonding has occurred and provides a checklist so they can examine their own relationships. Included are steps readers can take to safely extricate themselves or their loved ones from these situations.

In Carnes’ introduction to his book he states:

Betrayal.  A breach of trust.  Fear.  What you thought was true – counted on to be true – was not.  It was just smoke and mirrors, outright deceit and lies.  Sometimes it was hard to tell because there was just enough truth to make everything seem right.  Even a little truth with just the right spin can cover the outrageous.  Worse, there are the sincerity and care that obscure what you have lost.  You can see the outlines of it now.  It was exploitation.  You were used.  Everything in you wants to believe you weren’t. Please make it not so, you pray.  Yet enough has emerged.  Facts.  Undeniable.  You sizzle with anger.

Betrayal.  You can’t explain it away anymore.  A pattern exists.  You know that now.  You can no longer return to the way it was (which was never really as it seemed).  That would be unbearable.  But to move forward means certain pain.  No escape.  No in-between.  Choices have to be made today, not tomorrow.  The usual ways you numb yourself will not work.  The reality is too great, too relentless.

Betrayal.  A form of abandonment.  Often the abandonment is difficult to see because the betrayer can be still close, even intimate, or may be intruding in your life.  Yet your interests, your well-being is continually sacrificed.

Abandonment is at the core of addictions.  Abandonment causes deep shame.  Abandonment by betrayal is worse than mindless neglect.  Betrayal is purposeful and self-serving.  If severe enough, it is traumatic.  What moves betrayal into the real of trauma is fear and terror. [my note:  I would add here that trauma is ALSO about overwhelming helplessness, hopelessness and great pain and suffering!] If the wound is deep enough, and the terror big enough [and great pain and suffering], your bodily systems shift to an alarm state.  You never feel safe.  You’re always on full-alert, just waiting for the hurt to begin again.  In that state of readiness, you’re unaware that part of you has died.  You are grieving.  Like everyone who has loss, you have shock and disbelief, fear, loneliness and sadness.  Yet you are unaware of these feelings because your guard is up.  In your readiness, you abandon yourself. Yes, another abandonment.

But that is not the worst.  The worst is a mind-numbing, highly addictive attachment to the people who have hurt you. [my note:  Addictive physiological patterns use the same chemicals and body-brain routes that human attachment does.  When our earliest caregiver attachments hurt us, our body-brain had no choice in the beginning of our life to alter the way our attachment patterns built us and built themselves into us in our early unsafe and insecure human environment.] You may even try to explain and help them understand what they are doing – convert them into non-abusers.  You may even blame yourself, your defects, your failed efforts.  You strive to do better as your life slips away in the swirl of the intensity.  These attachments cause you to distrust your own judgment, distort your own realities and place yourself at even greater risk.  The great irony?  You are bracing yourself against further hurt.  The result?  A guarantee of more pain.  These attachments have a name.  They are called betrayal bonds.

Exploitive relationships create betrayal bonds.  These occur when a victim bonds with someone who is destructive to him or her.  Thus the hostage becomes the champion of the hostage taker, the incest victim covers for the parent and the exploited employee fails to expose the wrongdoing of the boss. {my note:  I am also becoming very clear that, against all our nation’s social taboos about ‘thinking this way’, that our nation itself is allowing an abusive exploitive relationship to continue to grow between ‘the rich and the poor’.  I have a betrayal bond-attachment (as I suspect most of us do) to my own nation!] Sexual exploitation by professionals – such as in the Father Porter case, the Pied Piper phenomenon at Jonestown, and the kidnapping of the children from the school bus at Chowchilla – grab national attention.  Yet the bonds formed in those situations have much in common with the experiences most of us have.

We typically think of bonding as something good.  We use phrases like male bonding and marital bonds, referring to something positive. [my note:  and ‘the mother-infant bond’ – the following bold type is mine] Yet bonds are neutral.  They can be good or bad.  Consider destructive marriages as in War of the Roses in which the attachment results in a mutually destructive bond that cannot be broken.  Partners cannot leave each other the bond is so strong, even when they clearly know the risks.  Similarly, adult survivors of abusive and dysfunctional families struggle with bonds that are rooted in their own betrayal experiences.  Loyalty to that which does not work, or worse, to a person who is toxic, exploitive or destructive to you, is a form of insanity.

A number of signs indicate the presence of a betrayal bond:

1.  When everyone around you has strong negative reactions, yet you continue covering up, defending or explaining a relationship.

2.  When there is a constant pattern of nonperformance and yet you continue to believe false promises.

3.  When there are repetitive, destructive fights that nobody wins.

4.  When others are horrified by something that has happened to you and you are not.

5.  When you obsess over showing someone that he or she is wrong about you, your relationship or the person’s treatment of you.

6.  When you feel stuck because you know what the other person is doing is destructive but believe you cannot do anything about it.

7.  When you feel loyal to someone even though you harbor secrets that are damaging to others.

8.  When you move closer to someone you know is destructive to you with the desire of converting them to a non-abuser.

9.  When someone’s talents, charisma or contributions cause you to overlook destructive, exploitive or degrading acts. [my note:  Alas, I am also ‘reading’ patterns here that describe the nation I am a part of]

10.  When you cannot detach from someone even though you do not trust, like or care for the person.

11.  When you find yourself missing a relationship, even to the point of nostalgia and longing, that was so awful it almost destroyed you.

12.  When extraordinary demands are placed upon you to measure up as a way to cover up that you’ve been exploited.

13.  When you keep secret someone’s destructive behavior toward you [my note:  and I would add in the case of our nation ‘against others’] because of all the good they have done or the importance of their position or career.

14.  When the history of your relationship is about contracts or promises that have been broken and that you are asked to overlook.

Divorce, employee relations, litigation of any type, incest, child abuse, family and marital systems, domestic violence, hostage negotiation, kidnapping, professional exploitation and religious abuse all are areas that reference and describe the pattern of betrayal bonding.  They have in common situations of incredible intensity, or importance, or both. [my note:  I place our ‘national allegiance’ in this same category when the wealth and interests of the few causes great harm to the desperate many] They all can result in a bond with a person who is dangerous and exploitive.  Signs of betrayal bonding include misplaced loyalty, inability to detach and self-destructive denial. [bold type is mine]

If you are reading this book, a clear betrayal has probably happened in your life.  Chances are that you have also bonded with the person or persons who have let you down.  Now here is the important part:  you will never mend the would without dealing with the betrayal bond.  Like gravity, you may defy it for a while, but ultimately it will pull you back.  You cannot walk away from it.  Time will not heal it.  Burying yourself in compulsive and addictive behaviors will bring no relief, just more pain….

You can click on this title and go to Amazon.com to explore the Table of Contents and other pages, as well.  I haven’t read the book yet as I just discovered it in my searching today.  I will either locate a copy through my local library or buy one for myself.  The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships (1997) by Patrick J. Carnes

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I know I share with others my great difficulty in understanding much adult so-called humor.  I know part of the reason for this comes from my own traumatic very inadequate and scrambled-up early experiences with preverbal and verbal language.  Most words I heard directed at me from birth were contained in the context of severe emotional, psychological, verbal and physical violence and abuse.  That I grew up hearing other people in my family talking to one another in an entirely DIFFERENT context was of only vicarious use to me.

Along with the consequence of trauma and malevolent treatment in our very earliest months and years of life that doesn’t built our right limbic emotional regulation areas of our brain RIGHT comes built-in confusion that doesn’t allow us to understand or to ‘read’ other people’s SOCIAL cues, either.  REAL humor in humans is a signal of optimal environmental conditions.  Humor that is NOT truly funny, that does NOT connect itself to the happy center in the left brain that’s built birth to age one, is NOT really funny!

Many of us who cannot easily (or ever) come up with an instantaneous ‘witty’ comeback for other people’s supposed humor are often the same people who suffered greatly in our earliest years where very little was EVER funny.  Being the subject or brunt of someone’s ‘jokes’ can often be a victimizing experience for us in a war that is far too familiar to us.

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Infant-child abuse survivors were victims of bullying usually by the same people who were SUPPOSED to protect and care for us.  I know I have mentioned the following before on my blog, but I am going to describe this one more time – and then move past this ugly segment of my life forever.

When I was diagnosed with advanced aggressive breast cancer in July 2007 I began chemotherapy treatment with a local oncologist.  I went through the chemotherapy which were completed prior to surgery in December 2007 (which showed that there was a second cancer in the same breast).  I had HER positive cancer, so also went through a year of Herceptin treatments which ended July 2008.  At that time my ‘treatments’ were completed, and I saw my oncologist one last time.

By this time I was completely worn down at the same time all of my infant-child abuse-related ‘disabilities’ were in high gear (major treatment resistant lifelong depression, dissociation and PTSD).  What I received as a ‘parting gift’ from my oncologist was this:

He left the examining room while I dressed, and when I stepped out the door into the hallway there was the doc standing there like a predator waiting to attack me and to crush any hopes I might have had that this past year had thwarted my cancer.  He said – and these are his exact words – “I wouldn’t bother having breast reconstruction if I were you.  You won’t live long enough to enjoy them.  And besides, we will just have to cut them off again when the cancer comes back.”

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I have lived under the dark shadow and burden of that bullying, verbally and emotionally abusive cloud ever since.  I had NOTHING to say back to that man.  Finally in late December 2010 I choose to find a decent doctor – which I did in Tucson – and to request a scan that would let me know NOW if there is any cancer detectable in my body.

The scan was last Thursday.  The results came through yesterday, and there is NO SIGN, absolutely NO SIGN of ANY cancer in my body.

My eyes opened this morning as I looked at my clock.  4:16 a.m.  My first thought was, “I am cancer free.”

The relief I feel is beyond my words to describe.  I felt like a character in the movie, “Ground Hog Day.”  My life can move forward into the future from this moment on.

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My life was dependent upon that mean doctor.  I have no way to comprehend inside of myself WHY he did what he did or WHY he said what he did.  That kind of action toward another human being is EVIL as far as I can tell – and those who read my blog know I NEVER use that word lightly.

That I could take no action to defend or to protect myself from his words OR to respond to them is NOT a reflection on me personally.  Yet I do believe it is a reflection of the way my body-brain was built in response to horrific, unbelievable trauma and abuse from my birth and for the next 18 years.

My body-brain was built while I was continually suspended between life and death.  My mother made sure of that.  What I DID was endure – and I survived all she had to heave against me.

I have done the same thing these past three years post-evil-doctor’s condemning words.  But not any more.  I woke today in a different world, a world in which at least for now I am assured that my body isn’t being attacked from the inside-out – nor am I being attacked from the outside-in.

Like many, many early trauma and abuse survivors I HATE seeking medical care.  I did not begin receiving mammograms when I should have.  Because I now know that early abuse and trauma is one of the LEADING RISK FACTORS for breast cancer, I especially urge all women to GET THEIR MAMMOGRAMS.

My cancer had been growing approximately three years before it was found.  It was found ONLY because I did an aerobic workout after which my left arm swelled instantly to three times its size.  My sister INSISTED I go to a doctor.  This swelling was from lymphodema caused by cancer blocking my lymph nodes.

The cancer began at the same time the last of my children left home.  Within a short period of time I lost my business and my home.  I also had NO CLUE about all of the things I now understand about insecure attachment and infant-child abuse and how it changes our physiological development.

I am MUCH wiser now – but that will (to me) NEVER mean that I can fight back against mean people.  Abilities to know the difference between who to trust and who not to, to know who is safe and who isn’t, to have hope – are all abilities that begin to form themselves into an infants growing body-brain by two months of age.  If our earliest attachment environments and PEOPLE in them are/were AWFUL, none of these circuits and pathways build themselves into us in a PRIMARY way.

We are as a consequence ALWAYS at risk for being targets of abuse in our life.  I DO NOT take this to mean in the usual way that we are ‘victims’.  We need to understand that the way our physiological development changed in response to early abuse and trauma means that we do not have OPTIMALLY-built ways to detect the difference between who/what is safe and who/what is not.

Not to be able to trust an oncologist who’s expertise carried me through a very real threat-to-life cancer treatment regime is nearly as hard to believe as it is to believe that my mother (and all others who did not STOP her) could do to me what was done to me from the time I was born.

I endured again.  Here I am.  HERE I AM and I will continue to be HERE hopefully against all odds.  I never did care about getting breast reconstruction.  What I wanted to know NOW is whether or not I can invest in more roses, if I can invest in building a chicken coop so I can get a couple of chickens and maybe a rabbit, if I can take piano lessons…..

YOU BET I CAN!

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When I began writing this blog April 2009 I never anticipated where my journey would take me.  Yet as I examine how I am feeling and thinking at THIS moment in time, and as I look back at my thinking process that has led me directly to this point, I realize that all the signposts were there along the way that I would get HERE sooner or later.

When I began to write in 2009 I did not in any way align myself with the ‘guilty’.  Having been a victim of pervasive and horrible abuse without reprieve from the moment I was born until I left home at age 18 had certainly contributed to my blind-sightedness about how my own experience fit into the grand continuum of degrees of benevolent-malevolent treatment of infants and children.  My layers of blindness have been peeling away until at this moment I believe I am very nearly at the core of what concerns me most.

When looking at the range of harm done by the intra- and intergenerational transmission of unresolved trauma (the overall topic of this blog) I now very clearly understand that suffering is suffering, trauma is trauma, overwhelming experiences of malevolent treatment all happen within the context of the society we live in.  Infant-child suffering is happening all over the place around me, and I am left asking the same two questions of myself that I would have asked of anyone outside of my family who did absolutely nothing to help me when I was an infant-child:  “Why are you not SEEING my suffering and why are you doing NOTHING to help me?”

There are days when I come very close to giving up ‘my work’ completely.  The big picture is – well – exactly that – A VERY BIG PICTURE!

The undercurrent of this blog is a discussion of how early deprivation, neglect, trauma and malevolent treatment of ALL KINDS can and usually does alter human physiological development on all levels so that infant-children ESPECIALLY between ages 0-3 (the span of the most critical developmental body-brain windows of growth) has to CHANGE itself in degrees according to experiences in the environment that are NOT OPTIMAL.  ALL experiences 0-3 profoundly determine directions of body-brain development FOR EVERYONE in accordance with degrees of safety and security of attachment or their absence with primary caregivers.

I understand now that no matter how horrible any individual early trauma survivor’s stories may be, the essence of what matters is how that person’s PHYSIOLOGICAL development was forced to change in response to their traumas.  This process is happening to some degree for every single infant-child who is NOT optimally safe and secure during their most critical periods of body-brain development.  Any lack of well-being experienced at the start of life will create ‘channels’ of lack of well-being PHYSIOLOGICALLY that will determine an adult’s life course.

It was inevitable that I would recognize myself (along with other adult severe early trauma survivors) in the river along with all the CURRENTLY SUFFERING little people within our nation.  (I can’t begin to talk about lack of child well-being outside of our nation’s boundaries – the conditions for our own children are bad enough).

I have selected this one of our 50 states to focus on in this post concerning some of the lack of child well-being issues within our nation:  Massachusetts.

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This report, available through searching the KIDS COUNT pages for ‘violence’ – “A State Call to Action:  Working to End Child Abuse and Neglect in Massachusetts” – is reporting on information collected in the 1990s.  Considering how damaging this ‘past’ information is I cannot begin to imagine what a similar report might contain that covers the current state of affairs in our recession.

According to KIDS COUNT data — KIDS COUNT overall rankMassachusetts now rates #5 in the nation on overall indicators of child well-being.  When this report was created In April 2001 the state ranked in the top 10%, yet, according to this 216 page report the problems in the state fall exactly along the lines the United Nations reported in their 2010 report card on child well-being among the globe’s 24 richest nations with the United States having very nearly the widest gap between rich and poor (Credit for all citations below to:  Massachusetts Citizens for Children – Kids Count):

However, contrast between the state’s overall progress and the incidence of child maltreatment is stark and confounding.  In the decade from 1987 to 1997, Massachusetts saw an 98% increase in the number of children reported for abuse or neglect, compared to a national increase of 54% during the same period.  Based on the latest data, roughly 46 of every 1,000 children in our state is involved each year in a child abuse or neglect report.  Each year, thousands of newborn children in Massachusetts go home from hospital only to return later with unthinkable injuries – injuries that for most will be life-changing and for some will be life-ending.

“Although Massachusetts ranks consistently in the top three to four states in per capital income, we have been unable to translate this extraordinary wealth into reductions in childhood poverty, family violence or child maltreatment.  States with fewer resources but clear vision are leading a national reform of child protection that is innovative, pro-active and effective.

“Since May 1999, over 200 Massachusetts policymakers and advocates have participated with Massachusetts Citizens for Children in the “Summit Initiative on Child Protection and Family Support.”  Motivated by a shared belief that overall current systems do not reflect our state’s deep and longstanding commitment to improving children’s lives, they collaborated to achieve a consensus for change.  This State Call To Action [full report also available at this link] reflects their collective vision on how Massachusetts can successfully deal with child maltreatment and reclaim its historic role of leadership in meeting the essential needs of all its children.  (page 9)”

Access full report here:  A State Call to Action:  Working to End Child Abuse and Neglect in Massachusetts

This report, which represents the combined hard work and dedication of a LOT of people, was generated in response to

“…the National Call To Action to End Child Maltreatment, initiated by Children’s Hospital and Health Center-San Diego at its January 1999 “Conference on Responding to Child Maltreatment.”  This effort to end child abuse and neglect has now brought together over 30 of this country’s leading organizations in a coalition to address this national crisis.”

I want to know what the results of the intentions and the efforts this report represents are NOW a decade later.  As far as I can tell, the most accessible current information is available HERE.

There is a link on this page to “Who’s For Kids and Who’s Just Kidding?” – This is a November 2010 citizen’s guide to candidates’ stands on these issues:

- Reducing Child Poverty

- Supporting Low-Income Working Families

- Providing Early Education and Care

- Improving Children’s Health

- Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

- Protecting Children In Foster Care

- Improving Juvenile Justice

These are among the questions posed to the candidates – good ones to be posed to ANY candidate for any position in America!

Massachusetts boasts the third highest per capita income in the nation, yet 12%, or nearly 170,000 of our state’s children are living in poverty; 6% or 88,000 live in extreme poverty in households with annual earnings of only $11,000 for a family of four.  What will you do to bridge this persistent economic divide and to ensure greater economic security to lift these children out of poverty?

What will you do to address the harmful impact of the growing gap between low and high income earners in Massachusetts?

What will you do to tangibly improve the conditions of poor children and their families in the Commonwealth’s poorest cities, such as Holyoke, Lawrence, Springfield and New Bedford?”

Taking a look at some of the issues presented in this Massachusetts ‘flyer’ makes me wonder what’s happening in the very poor and middle income states within our nation.  Interspersed with this information being reported here are questions for the candidates:

PROVIDING EARLY EDUCATION AND CARE

- 43% of 3rd graders in the Bay State do not read at grade level, and two-thirds of these children are from low-income families.  The impact of reading failure on these children and our state is enormous, with many likely to become our lowest income and least skilled citizens tomorrow.

- Science has never been clearer about the long-term effects of early environment and experience on a child’s brain architecture.  Research confirms that providing high quality early education and care to children from low-income homes yields a 10% to 16% return on investment to the economy through better reading skills, greater high school graduation rates, college attendance, and healthier lives.

[me:  not to mention the power of a little one 0-3 growing an optimal body-brain IN EVERY WAY in a safe and secure attachment within a VERY low stressor environment, which also includes its effects on preverbal-verbal development]

- Organizations and schools have worked tirelessly over the past decade to press the state to build a system of universal access to affordable, accessible, and high quality services with well-trained teachers.  They have supported parents in playing a critical role in their child’s educational success.  To meet those goals, Massachusetts formed the nation’s first Department of Early Education and Care in 2005.

FACTS ABOUT OUR KIDS:

- 61% of Massachusetts’ 480,422 children ages birth through 5 years old have parents who are in the labor force, and most of these parents have child care needs.  92%of children under age seven are cared for regularly by someone other than a parent.  However, the quality of these arrangements varies enormously.

- Children from low-income families entering kindergarten are typically 12 to 14 months below national norms in language and pre-reading skills.  [bolding mine]  By 4th grade, many of these children will not be able to read or understand up to half of what is taught to them in the 4th grade curriculum, and most will continue to be poor readers even through high school.

- Only 32% of kindergarten and preschool teachers in Massachusetts hold a Bachelor’s degree versus 50% nationwide.  And only 16% of child care workers have graduated from a four-year school.

- By the end of fiscal year 2009, state funding for Universal Pre-K declined from $12 million to $7.5 million while funding for full-day kindergarten programs declined from $33.8 million to $22.9 million.

IMPROVING CHILDREN’S HEALTH

- Thanks to the expansion of health care coverage under Massachusetts law, the state has some of the best child health outcomes in the country.  In fact, Massachusetts ranks among the top three best states on key indicators of child health, including infant mortality, the death rate for children and the rate of births to teen moms, according to the latest KIDS COUNT data.

- Currently, only 2% of children are officially uninsured in the state.  Furthermore, 80% of children on Medicaid receive an annual health screening and 91% of our two-tear-olds are immunized.  Massachusetts is one of only six states where at-risk children are eligible for early intervention, special education and preventive health and mental health services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

- Despite these accomplishments, Massachusetts is still a tale of two states with regard to physical, dental and mental health outcomes for children living in the poorest communities.

FACTS ABOUT OUR KIDS

[lists double or more increases in percentages between low-income and the state percentages for child problems with infant mortality, teen births, environmental poisoning such as lead]

- Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease and is at epidemic levels among many low-income Black and Hispanic children.  It often leads to speech, nutrition and learning difficulties.  [low-income counties affected are listed]

- Mental health care needs in children are more prevalent than leukemia, diabetes, and AIDS combined.  However, parents of children with mental illness report serious issues ranging from long waits for services and inadequate training of school personnel to high out-of-pocket expenses. [also states that state Medicaid only covers an inadequate amount of only $250 a year for child prescriptions – also lists questions for candidates]

- Nearly 37,000 Massachusetts children were confirmed abused or neglected in 2008.  Cases of child sexual abuse rose 16% from the previous year, physical abuse rose 12% and neglect 10%.

- Child sexual abuse is “a silent epidemic,” according to the American Medical Association.  Surveys of adults indicate that one in four women and one in six men have experienced some for of sexual abuse before the age of 18.  Many victims suffer into adulthood with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, relationship problems and further sexual or physical victimization.  Among sexual abuse survivors, 70% to 80% report excessive drug and alcohol use and are more likely than their non-abused peers to develop psychiatric disorders and to attempt suicide.  Girls who report childhood sexual abuse are three times more likely to become pregnant before age 18.

- An estimated $23 billion dollars are spent each year as law enforcement agencies, courts, child protection, health and mental health systems, and social service programs struggle to deal with the aftermath of this epidemic. Prevention and early identification of victims and abusers hold the best promise of reducing the human and economic costs.  Despite this, most communities have not been mobilized for prevention, most adults are not protecting children from people who might abuse them, and most parents are not communicating to their children about a major health and safety risk.

- 50% of 650 Massachusetts citizens polled ranked “safety from abuse” as most important to a child’s well-being with quality education, medical care, economic security and child care compromising the remainder 50%

- 90% of Massachusetts residents polled believe that child sexual abuse is a serious problem in the Commonwealth, 85% believe child sexual abuse can be prevented, and 67% said they were interested in local trainings to learn how – up from 48% in a previous survey.

- Since 2002, a coalition of over 20 Massachusetts organizations has been working through the Enough Abuse Campaign to develop and test innovative programs to prevent child sexual abuse.  Hailed as a “trailblazing effort” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the Campaign operates in a dozen communities across the state.

[Information included here about foster care placements and kinship care needs]

On Juvenile Criminal Issues:

- Black youth are more than nine times as likely to be held in secure confinement as white youth – yet there is no evidence that black youth commit more crimes, or more serious crimes, than white youth.

- Massachusetts is one of only 12 states that consider 17-year-olds adults under the criminal law.

- Massachusetts has the 11th highest rate of juveniles sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in the country.

- The stark racial disparities in the Massachusetts juvenile justice system call into question the fundamental fairness of the system and represents one of the foremost civil rights challenges of our time.

- Massachusetts does not collect basic juvenile justice system data, e.g. what types of crimes youth are being prosecuted for.  This lack of data makes it impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention and intervention efforts. [questions for the candidates here includes those on probation and rehabilitation issues]

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Are you one in the caring compassionate category who likes to keep your finger on the pulse of quality-of-life for our nation’s infants and children? Did you know that there’s a project sponsored by The Annie E. Casey Foundation dedicated to “Helping vulnerable kids and families succeed?”  Below you will find links to the most up-to-date and accurate information about the ‘state of the union’ of our nation’s most at-risk offspring.

Click here to reach KIDS COUNT DATA CENTER where anyone can “access hundreds of measures of child well-being.”  I ‘friended’ KIDS COUNT on Facebook so that I receive all kinds of valuable information on the state of our nation’s vulnerable little ones ASAP!  This is the link to KIDS COUNT main page.

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KIDS COUNT The Annie E. Casey Foundation is now on Facebook. Become their fan and receive updates on current and future work related to children and families: http://ow.ly/3DarQ

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On KIDS COUNT main data bank website you can access DATA BY STATE

  • Data within the bounds of a single state or territory
  • Includes community-level data
  • Search by location or topic
  • Create profiles, maps, rankings, line graphs, or raw data

As well as DATA ACROSS STATES

  • Data spanning the U.S.
  • Compare states or cities
  • Search by topic
  • Create maps, rankings, line graphs, or raw data

There is even a KIDS COUNT DATA CENTER HELP PAGE

Some of the information you can access on this site (well, the full report pdf file didn’t open on my computer but might on yours!)

This is the list of key indicators the KIDS COUNT collects national data on about child well-being for The 2010 KIDS COUNT DATA BOOK:

Updated on 1/26/2011

·  CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT DATA AVAILABLE 12/1/2010

Congressional District data are now available for over 20 indicators including many of the poverty and employment indicators obtained from the 2009 American Community Survey.

Access the profile for your congressional district in Data By State and/or watch this short video to see how you can get started.

NEW EMPLOYMENT DATA AVAILABLE 11/23/2010

The Economic Well-Being section in Data Across States has been updated. Data includes estimates from the 2009 American Community Survey. Updated data for the U.S., states, and cities:
§ Children below 250% poverty
§ Children in low-income working families by age group
§ Children living in low-income households where no adults work
§ Children living in families where no parent has full-time, year round employment
§ Children living in families where no parent has full-time, year round employment, by race (US and states only)
§ Children age 6 to 12 with all available parents in the labor force
§ Median family (with child) income
§ Low-income working families with children

POPULAR TOPICS — Updated on 1/26/2011

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This is an example of other information that KIDS COUNT disseminates.  This information appeared on my Facebook page yesterday:

The Nation’s Report Card – Kids Scores in Science

Fewer than one-half of students perform at or above the Proficient level in science at all three grades

“Students throughout the nation in grades 4, 8, and 12 participated in the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science. The assessment was updated in 2009 to keep the content current with key developments in science, curriculum standards, and research. To establish the baseline for future science assessments, the overall average score for each grade was set at 150 on a 0 to 300 scale.

  • Thirty-four percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level.
  • Seventy-two percent of fourth-graders, 63 percent of eighth-graders, and 60 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Basic level.
  • One percent of fourth-graders, 2 percent of eighth-graders, and 1 percent of twelfth-graders performed at the Advanced level.
  • Scores were higher than the nation in 24 states/jurisdictions at fourth-grade and 25 states/jurisdictions at eighth-grade.
  • At grade 12, there was no significant difference in scores for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students, and both groups scored higher on average than other racial/ethnic groups.”

Explore more national and state results.

For more information, browse the report online or download a copy of the report.

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This information also appeared on my Facebook page yesterday from KIDS COUNT on data they have collected:

Children in low-income households where housing costs exceed 30 percent of income (Percent) – 2009 (updated November 2010)

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Taking a look at JUST ONE component of the suffering of millions of our children I see this:

More than one in five children (22.5 percent) live in families who are food insecure – meaning they struggle against hunger and report not having enough to eat

Do you personally know any of these most-hungry infants and children?  Do you have them in your household?  In your neighborhood?  In your city or county?

YES you have them in your nation – and not a ‘handful’ of them, either?

THIS IS THE WEBSITE FOR FEEDING AMERICA

There is an interactive national MAP for FEEDING AMERICA ACROSS THE NATION here

This website is presenting undeniable FACTS about ONLY one measure of our nation’s offspring’s’ lack of well-being.  PLEASE take a look – and then TAKE ACTION.

Take a look at the 2010 report about Hunger in America.

Find your closest Food Bank.

Register with Feeding America.

Take Action Now!

CARE AND CAREGIVE!!

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While we cannot argue about the United Nation’s facts about the suffering of a large percentage of America’s infants and children, or their facts regarding the appalling gap in our nation between the rich infant-children who ‘have’ and the poor ones who ‘have not’, we can PRETEND that everyone in our nation is created equal because we choose to IGNORE these facts.

Trauma, deprivation, abuse, neglect, exposure to violence to self and to others, affect the way an infant-child’s body-brain develops. This blog is packed with posts containing information about this fact.  Infants and children ESPECIALLY FROM AGE 0-3 will suffer from the greatest physiological changes to their development due to the malevolence in their earliest caregiving environments.

When Trauma Altered Development happens, those who survive it will NOT BE CREATED EQUAL – in their body-brain – to those who had a more benevolent early beginning.  THIS IS A FACT!

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The growing GAP in our nation between those who HAVE and those who DO NOT HAVE is becoming easier to ignore because of this GAP.  Many Americans live in their RICHER neighborhoods while the POOR live in theirs.  “Out of sight, out of mind?”

In this post I want to highlight something that EVERYONE in our nation can do to help.  In people who were raised within a ‘good enough’ early environment if not an optimal safe and secure attachment home, our EMPATHY AND COMPASSION caregiving system was SUPPOSED to be developed within our physiology RIGHT.  This means that we are able to DETECT the suffering of others of our species so that we can RESPOND WITH APPROPRIATE CAREGIVING.

It is a very real physiological fact that trauma and malevolence we are exposed to in our earliest 0-3 developmental stages alters the development of our attachment systems which causes our EMPATHY and COMPASSION and ABILITY TO RESPOND WITH APPROPRIATE CAREGIVING do NOT develop optimally.  I would say ‘normally’ but it seems to be that what our species is OPTIMALLY capable of offering individuals who are raised 0-3 in the BEST conditions is NOT HAPPENING.

Looking at the end result, that we as a nation are content to allow growing and LARGE numbers of our offspring to suffer – and hence suffer in their physiological development so that their entire lifespan will lack the basics of well-being – means to me simply that THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS somehow MISSED out on optimal development as members of their species.  “The proof is in the pudding!”

OPTIMAL growth and development in safe and secure attachment caregiving environments ESPECIALLY 0-3 means that these too-rare gifts of our species – empathy, compassion and abilities to respond with appropriate caregiving to others – has evidently NOT HAPPENED for the majority of Americans – no matter how MATERIALLY well-off they may have been in the beginning of their lives or how well-off they are now.

Evidently even though America still remains among the globe’s 24 richest countries, our wealth with its increasingly uneven distribution has NOTHING to do with the condition of our nation’s PEOPLE as human beings.

How are we as individuals and as members of a (once great?) nation able to ignore facts such as I presented in this recent post?

+PLEASE CHECK OUT THIS REPORT ON AMERICA’S CHILDREN IN RECESSION TIMES

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We must not lose sight of the facts about the immediate and long-term consequences that malevolent trauma has on growing infant-children.  There is nothing about being an American that changes the outcome that severe stress-distress has on physiological development during a little one’s MOST CRITICAL stages of early growth.

As this blog repeats over and over again neglect, abuse, deprivation, exposure to violent conflict including verbal abuse to ANYONE in an infant-child’s environment and other conditions of an early unsafe, insecure, inadequate early attachment environment WILL IMPACT physiology in development, thus changing the body a survivor will live in and with for the rest of their lifespan.

I want to highlight here yet again the important work the Center for Disease Control has been accomplishing to PROVE the link between Early Adverse Childhood experiences and lifelong adult suffering of all kinds.  As states within our nation deliberate about how to meet their budgets IN THE RED it will MOST OFTEN happen that assistance to the most desperate infant-children, their families, along with assistance to poor and sick who are MOST LIKELY adult survivors of infant-child malevolent environments will be cut.

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CHILD ABUSE SURVIVORSHIP IN THE NEWS:

Childhood Trauma May Shorten Life By 20 Years

CDC Research Finds Problems in Childhood Can Be Lifelong

By JOSEPH BROWNSTEIN
ABC News Medical Unit
Oct. 6, 2009

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The Center for Disease Control’s Adverse Childhood Experience (CDC-ACE) study is not without limitations.  All 17,421 participants were insurance members which means that information from the many other uninsured levels of our society were not included.   If they had been (or are in the future) how much more child abuse connected lifelong adult devastation would be seen?

I would like to see the model of this study expanded through the use of the ACE questionnaires in a far wider variety of settings, preferably included in every human well-being study our nation produces.  At the moment, I want to simply highlight the important work the CDC has been doing over the past 14 years with its studies of the consequences of child abuse for survivors for your thought and consideration by presenting some information from their website on Adverse Childhood Experiences as follows:

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted on the links between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. As a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination provided detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. Over 17,000 members chose to participate. To date, over 50 scientific articles have been published and over 100 conference and workshop presentations have been made.

The ACE Study findings suggest that these experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation’s worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from the understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.

Here is one website about the study:

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study:  Bridging the gap between childhood trauma and negative consequences later in life.

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About the study:

The ACE Study was initiated at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997, and its participants are over 17,000 members who were undergoing a standardized physical examination. No further participants will be enrolled, but we are tracking the medical status of the baseline participants.

Each study participant completed a confidential survey that contained questions about childhood maltreatment and family dysfunction, as well as items detailing their current health status and behaviors. This information was combined with the results of their physical examination to form the baseline data for the study.

The prospective phase of the ACE Study is currently underway, and will assess the relationship between adverse childhood experiences, health care use, and causes of death.

More detailed scientific information about the study design can be found in “The relationship of adult health status to childhood abuse and household dysfunction,”* published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 1998, Volume 14, pages 245-258.

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The ACE Pyramid represents the conceptual framework for the Study. During the time period of the 1980s and early 1990s information about risk factors for disease had been widely researched and merged into public education and prevention programs. However, it was also clear that risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, and sexual behaviors for many common diseases were not randomly distributed in the population. In fact, it was known that risk factors for many chronic diseases tended to cluster, that is, persons who had one risk factor tended to have one or more others.

Because of this knowledge, the ACE Study was designed to assess what we considered to be “scientific gaps” about the origins of risk factors. These gaps are depicted as the two arrows linking Adverse Childhood Experiences to risk factors that lead to the health and social consequences higher up the pyramid. Specifically, the study was designed to provide data that would help answer the question: “If risk factors for disease, disability, and early mortality are not randomly distributed, what influences precede the adoption or development of them?” By providing information to answer this question, we hoped to provide scientific information that would be useful for the development of new and more effective prevention programs.

The ACE Study takes a whole life perspective, as indicated on the orange arrow leading from conception to death. By working within this framework, the ACE Study began to progressively uncover how childhood stressors (ACE) are strongly related to development and prevalence of risk factors for disease and health and social well-being throughout the lifespan.

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Major Findings

Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which we term adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of our study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one in five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems. The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a count of the total number of ACE respondents reported. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the number of ACE increase, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

  • alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • depression
  • fetal death
  • health-related quality of life
  • illicit drug use
  • ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • liver disease
  • risk for intimate partner violence
  • multiple sexual partners
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • smoking
  • suicide attempts
  • unintended pregnancies

In addition, the ACE Study has also demonstrated that the ACE Score has a strong and graded relationship to health-related behaviors and outcomes during childhood and adolescence including early initiation of smoking, sexual activity, and illicit drug use, adolescent pregnancies, and suicide attempts. Finally, as the number of ACE increases the number of co-occurring or “co-morbid” conditions increases.

Content source: Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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Adverse Childhood Experiences Study Questionnaires – AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE

This is the simplest version of the ACE questionnaire I have seen that consists of ten questions: What’s YOUR ACE Score?  Help me calculate my ACE Score.

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In a world of perfect strangers a baby’s gotta do what a baby’s gotta do.  There’s a time in an infant’s pattern of physiological development where its attachment patterns appear clearly and unequivocally, and certainly around a year of age is the time nature has intended that this should happen.  That’s why attachment experts can measure infant attachment at this developmental stage.  (Scoring the Mary Ainsworth Strange Situation assessment of infant attachment.)

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When I read information – or rather MISinformation about infant attachment such as I discovered on the About.com website in its article entitled, Attachment Styles

By Kendra Cherry, About.com Guide I not only cringe, but I want to scream and shake somebody!

The author states (on page 3):

Before you start blaming relationship problems on your parents, it is important to note that attachment styles formed in infancy are not necessarily identical to those demonstrated in adult romantic-attachment.”

‘Attachment styles formed in infancy’ are directly in response to the quality of early infant-caregiver interactions, and the nature and quality of these attachment interactions DO matter MOST.  These earliest attachment ‘styles’ in infancy BUILD THE BODY an infant will live in/with for the rest of its life.  Never again will those earliest body-brain-nervous system attachment interactions with caregivers have THIS KIND OF IMPACT or THIS KIND OF POWER to change the developmental physiology of a human being exactly in response to the nature of the caregiving environment the body is forming in interaction with.

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We CANNOT lump together ‘attachment experiences over a lifespan’ as being equal.  They are NOT equal.

Our earliest attachment experiences with our infant-toddler caregivers BUILD us from the ground up.  Sorry folks.  That foundational body-brain building only happens ONCE in a lifetime – for all of us.  There are no exceptions.  Once our earliest developmental Critical Windows of development have closed especially 0-3, whatever nature accomplished for us in response to the quality of our attachment environment is set within us for life.  Nobody can return down the road to a little developing body and get a ‘do over’.

To use computer-related imagery, these attachment-caregiver experiences 0-3 hardwire our body, nervous system, stress-calm response system, vagus nerve system, immune system, and set the combination of our genetic-expression into motion in response to either a benevolent or malevolent environment as our operating system is put into place that will run within us for the rest of our life.

No, dear Kendra Cherry, all lifespan attachment experiences ARE NOT EQUAL!

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This blog is packed with information about the kinds of physiological alterations that happen as a young infant-child grows a body-brain in response to a malevolent environment of unsafe and insecure attachment relationships.  There is a growing body of thought that these adaptations ALONE do not create the lifetime of suffering a survivor of early severe violent trauma, neglect and abuse will experience.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that it is the CONFLICT or the MISMATCH that happens when a person formed in a malevolent environment later enters a benevolent environment that creates ‘the problems’.  As Dr. Martin Teicher and his research group describe it, those raised from the start of their life form an ‘evolutionarily altered’ body-brain that makes perfect sense in ‘that kind of a world’.  But ‘that kind of body’ cannot LATER adapt to a malevolent world.

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What does it say about our society that we have evolved an individual segment that aligns itself with ATTACHMENT PARENTING – versus what?  Those that believe there is ANY OTHER SAFE and SANE way to parent infants and children?

Any infant-toddler parenting environment that does NOT put the attachment needs of the little one FIRST and PRIMARY is a malevolent one.

Sure, based on my severe abuse history as an infant-child this blog is devoted to describing the worst of the worst in terms of early caregiver-offspring harm.  But there is a continuum that we need to NEVER lose sight of between a truly optimal and benevolent early caregiving environment and a truly traumatic malevolent one.

My fear is that we are creating a nation of insecurely attached members, most of them who will suffer from an insecure dismissive-avoidant attachment pattern – built DIRECTLY into all levels of their body-brain development – from a lack of optimal early attachment experiences.

I believe it has already happened in America that insecure dismissive-avoidant LACK of optimal early attachment has become the NORM.  TRAGIC!  ANY insecure attachment pattern reflects adaptations to some degree of malevolence and neglect AWAY from optimal.

Once dismissive-avoidant insecurely attached people take over the primary DAY CARE experiences that infants and toddlers experience, the human beings that are being raised ALSO by dismissive-avoidant insecurely attached parents will GUARANTEE that the generations following these patterns on down the line will be SPLIT between so-called ‘logic’ and ‘emotion’ in such a way that emotional intelligence will exit from our culture along with the full optimal development of healthy human beings.  The consequence of the denial of the emotional component of humanity will be a destruction of abilities to experience true empathy, altruism, compassion, whole-human caregiving, increases in diseases of all kinds, and a spiraling destruction of participation in ‘community’.

If we want to raise generations of remote-controllable robots, of zombies who are dead to their own emotions and who are physiologically unable to access them, who are incapable of responding optimally to the emotions of others, who have no clue what true human empathy and the caregiving response it is meant to engender even is, then we are well on our way to accomplishing our mission.

Never mind that we are slipping toward creating a malevolent insecure dismissive-avoidant world.  The citizens we are raising without adequate and optimal safe and secure attachment to their earliest primary caregivers will never even know it.

Those infants being raised within optimal early safe and secure attachment environments are becoming the exception.  As we head toward our own demise it will soon be the fully safe and securely attached individual who has to REVERSE adapt from a benevolent early world to the malevolent world they are going to find outside of their home of origin.

When degrees of malevolence in infant-children’s earliest environment (including emotional neglect that creates a dismissive-avoidant insecure attachment-built body-brain) – become the norm it will be the benevolently, optimally formed safe and securely attached human beings that are going to be the outsiders.

Is this what we want, to create a nation where the healthiest most safely and securely attached individuals don’t fit in because THEY ARE TOO HEALTHY?

Babies have the human right to safely and securely attach to their primary earliest caregiver – their MOTHER.  This is their human right because without this primary safe and secure attachment 0 to primarily age one an infant cannot possibly grow an optimal body-brain.  Day care providers as well as parents need to be educated about how optimal primary safe and secure attachment creates the healthiest human being possible so that these infants who DO attend day care can be given what they need to transition into an environment that cannot possibly put any one single infant’s attachment needs at the top of the priority list.

To deny that an infant has essential attachment needs and to create an environment where these needs are not recognized and met is malevolent emotional neglect whether it happens within the home or within a day care setting.

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I have yet to find a way to write about the connection I know exists between infant-child violent trauma caused within an abusive environment and the lifelong experience of living in a body that henceforth knows ONLY one thing for sure:  Pain of Sadness.  Nor can I find ANYONE who has clearly written about this subject before me as it involves Substance P and depression caused by infant-child abuse.

I know intuitively (and my body knows it) that Substance P (our pain neurostransmitter), chronic sadness, chronic depression, chronic anxiety ‘stress response’ (PTSD) and an extremely insecure and unsafe infant-toddler-child attachment-relationship environment are absolutely connected.  I also believe that future research that focuses on these connections will show I am right.  This is logical because ABUSE CAUSES PAIN and when this pain is extreme (and chronic), happens early in an infant-child’s life during its rapid growth during critical windows of development, and involves a failed-dangerous attachment relationship, there is no way that the Substance P system (along with all other developing physiology of a little one) could NOT be radically changed as a consequence.

I still believe that all Trauma Altered Development due to growth of a human infant 0-3 (and beyond) in an environment of violent trauma and malevolent deprivation is orchestrated by the immune system in a feedback-loop process that changes the body-brain we live in for the rest of our lives.

Sometimes when I turn to an online search regarding a topic that is front and center in my thinking I am astounded to immediately locate EXACTLY what I need.  The excerpt from a research study specifically refers to Substance P, the neuropeptide of pain signaling, as being connected to the stress-fear response related – in my thinking – to interrupted early attachment:

Substance P causes a “fight or flight” response, and there is evidence of substance P antagonists blocking this stress response via blockade of substance P receptors in the amygdala.  There are multiple animal models providing evidence for this. Guinea pig pups that are separated from their mothers make vocalizations that seem to result from increased substance P released in their internal amygdala. [This bold type and italics is mine.]  Substance P antagonists inhibit these vocalizations. More direct evidence has come from cats who manifest rage behavior when their medial hypothalamus is stimulated. The medial hypothalamus has direct projections to the medial amygdala. Substance P antagonists as well as antidepressants block this behavior. Similar effects have been noted in hamsters with forced intruders in their cages and in mice forced to swim. There appears to be no direct interaction between substance P antagonists and antidepressants; substance P antagonists seem to work at sites unrelated to monoamines.

Other areas of the brain that have been implicated in substance P activity are the dorsal raphe nucleus and an area of the thalamus called the habenula, which has the highest density of substance P receptors. The habenula inhibits firing of the dorsal raphe nucleus. The dorsal raphe consists of approximately 50% serotonin neurons and 50% substance P neurons.”

“It [Substance P] is thought to be the primary neurotransmitter for nociceptive [pain] information.”

2001 informative and fascinating article on Substance P (CLICK FOR FULL ARTICLE) by Harrison S, Geppetti P., Italy

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Article on cell communication and signaling from Germany (2008):

Impact of norepinephrine, dopamine and substance P on the activation and function of CD8 lymphocytes

During the past 30 years in became evident that neurotransmitter are important regulators of the immune system.  The presence of nerve fibers and the release of neurotransmitters within lymphoid organs represent a mechanism by which signals from the central nervous system influence the immune cell functions. Neurotransmitter per se cannot induce any new function in immune cells but they are mainly responsible for the “fine-tuning” of an immune response.”

neurotransmitters are specific modulators of certain immune functions.”  [bold type is mine]

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Divergent effects of norepinephrine, dopamine and substance P on the activation, differentiation and effector functions of human cytotoxic T lymphocytes (2009)

Neurotransmitters are important regulators of the immune system, with very distinct and varying effects on different leukocyte subsets…..  Conclusion:  Neurotransmitters are specific modulators of CD8 + T lymphocytes not by inducing any new functions, but by fine-tuning their key tasks. The effect can be either stimulatory or suppressive depending on the activation status of the cells.”

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(Hypertension. 1997;29:510.)
© 1997 American Heart Association, Inc.

Hypothalamic Substance P Release

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From Harvard Medical School – Harvard Health Publications

Depression and pain

Hurting bodies and suffering minds often require the same treatment.

(This article was first printed in the September 2004 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. For more information or to order, please go to http://www.health.harvard.edu/mental.)

The convergence of depression and pain is reflected in the circuitry of the nervous system. In the experience of pain, communication between body and brain goes both ways. Normally, the brain diverts signals of physical discomfort so that we can concentrate on the external world. When this shutoff mechanism is impaired, physical sensations, including pain, are more likely to become the center of attention. Brain pathways that handle the reception of pain signals, including the seat of emotions in the limbic region, use some of the same neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood, especially serotonin and norepinephrine. When regulation fails, pain is intensified along with sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. And chronic pain, like chronic depression, can alter the functioning of the nervous system and perpetuate itself.

The mysterious disorder known as fibromyalgia may illustrate these biological links between pain and depression. Its symptoms include widespread muscle pain and tenderness at certain pressure points, with no evidence of tissue damage. Brain scans of people with fibromyalgia show highly active pain centers, and the disorder is more closely associated with depression than most other medical conditions. Fibromyalgia could be caused by a brain malfunction that heightens sensitivity to both physical discomfort and mood changes.

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An online chapter reading on Sadness and Depression – worth a read.  Unfortunately (on page 7) the article does not state that failed safe and secure attachment with a primary caregiver(s) is probably the most neglected ‘cause’ of depression at the same time it influences genetic expression most powerfully.

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“Substance P (SP) is thought to have an impact in the pathophysiology of depression and the mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs.”

Substance P serum levels are increased in major depression: preliminary results

By Baghai et al., University of Munich, Germany, Biol Psychiatry 2003 Mar 15;53(6):538-42

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More United Kingdom research on Substance P and depression HERE

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I ask, “What happens to our development when contact with humans causes infants pain rather than brings them reward (Dopamine, a reward-related chemical)?”

Transitions in infant learning are modulated by dopamine in the amygdala

By Barr et al., Nature Neuroscience 12, 1367 – 1369 (2009)

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International research team on infant frontal cortex development at 9 months:

Polymorphisms in Dopamine System Genes are Associated with Individual Differences in Attention in Infancy

By Holmboe et al., Nature Neuroscience 12, 1367 – 1369 (2009)

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+SUBSTANCE P – IT’S OUR BODY’S BIOLOGICAL LINK TO FEELING EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL PAIN

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Interesting article:

Sadness Strengthens with Age

Researcher “…Levenson thinks the heightened sadness response might be beneficial for maintaining and strengthening social ties. Sadness “is a very functional emotion,” Levenson says. “It’s an emotion that really brings people towards us and motivates them to help us.”

SEE ALSO:

+CLEAR ARTICLE ON LIFELONG INFANT-CHILD TRAUMA CONSEQUENCES

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All survivors of infant-toddler-child violent trauma and maltreatment share a common ground.  Although the information I am presenting here might be difficult for some to read, what is being said here is extremely important.  When I say that it isn’t the exact memories of what specifically happened to any one of us that matters most, it is to the kind of information that follows that I am referring to that DOES matter most.

We survivors have always struggled.

Please spend a little time at least skimming through the rest of this post – if you are a survivor of a chaotic, unstable, violent early life I believe you will feel reverberations in your BODY to this topic.  I don’t believe we can truly follow our pathway through healing if we don’t truly comprehend the impact of the violent trauma and maltreatment we experienced – and what it did to us on all the levels of our development.

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What follows comes from this book:

Handbook of infant mental health By Dr. Charles H. Zeanah, Jr.

Publisher: The Guilford Press; Third Edition (July 15, 2009)

From Chapter 12 – The Effects of Violent Experience

(I present this copyrighted material here for educational purposes only – please refer to the actual book article for exact references to research noted)

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Neurobiology

“We noted earlier in this chapter that violent trauma early in life – particularly when involving repeated and severe exposure – impacts the central nervous system, brain development, and the overall health of the individual (McEwen, 2003).  We now review in greater depth the underlying neurobiology of the sequelae of violence exposure in a developmental and relational context.

“Preclinical studies have shown that areas of the brain that are particularly prone to the adverse effects of maltreatment and violent trauma during the first 3-5 years of life include (1) those that have a prolonged postnatal developmental period, (2) those with a high density of glucocorticoid receptors, and (3) those that have the potential for postnatal neurogenesis (Teicher et al., 2003).  These areas include, most prominently, the hippocampus, amygdala, corpus callosum, cerebellar vermis, and the cerebral cortex.

“When a rat infant undergoes severe stress, such as repeated foot shocks, the hippocampus fails to form the expected density of synaptic connections.  Normative pruning of these connections nonetheless occurs later in the prepubertal period, so adult animals who were repeatedly stressed in infancy end up with far fewer synaptic connections in this region (Andersen & Teicher, 2004).  These results support Carrion et al.’s (2007) findings that differences in hippocampal volume in patients with PTSD are more likely due to the neurotoxicity of stress hormones than to a constitutional size difference.  Clinical implications of hippocampal and amygdalar damage due to stress hormones may include increased propensity for confusion of past and present, flashbacks, and dissociative symptoms (Sakamoto et al., 2005).

“The corpus callosum is a heavily myelinated region of the brain that is associated with hemispheric integration.  High levels of stress hormones during infancy and early childhood have been associated with suppressed glial cell division, which is critical for myelination (Berrebi et al., 1988).  DeBellis et al. (2002) observed that reduced corpus callosum size was the most significant structural finding noted in children with a history of maltreatment and PTSD.  Disturbances in the myelination of the corpus callosum and cortex due to excessive exposure to glucocorticoids during the first 3 years of life may explain some of the difficulties that maltreated preschool-age children have in integrating cognitive and emotional information and in taking others’ perspective, in comparison to nonmaltreated age-matched controls (Pears & Fisher, 2005).

“Among the most exciting research that illustrates the interaction of development and traumatic experience is that regarding the differential effects of specific types of maltreatment and violent trauma on the brain at critical periods of development through early adulthood in both animal and human models (Hall, 1998; Teicher, Tomoda, & Andersen, 2006).  For example, repeated episodes of sexual and physical abuse were associated in the same group of subjects with reduced hippocampal volume if the abuse was reported to occur in early childhood, but with reduced prefrontal cortex volume if the abuse occurred during adolescence (Teicher, 2005).  Similar exposure during different, temporally discrete windows of development may have very different clinical implications.

Effects on Memory

The psychological and neurobiological implications of exposure to traumatic events also involve the infant and young child’s developmentally determined capacity to encode, remember, and recall those events in order to subsequently make meaning of their experience.  Recent evidence suggests that even prior to 1 year of age, infants’ capacity to recall events is well underway.  By the end of the second year of life, long-term memory is reliably and clearly present, especially when there have been reinforcing memories (i.e., repeated exposures or explicit reminders), which are unfortunately all too common in cases of maltreatment and family violence (Bauer, 2006; Hartshorn & Rovee-Collier, 2003).  Based on her review of the literature, Fivush (1998) has noted that traumatic events perceived before the age of 18 months are frequently not verbally accessible, whereas events experienced between 18 and 36 months can often be coherently recounted and retained as long-term memories.

“Early chronic and/or severe exposure to violence and/or maltreatment has also been noted to lead to greater pervasive insult to memory functions and to promote dissociative processes that can interfere with memory retrieval (Howe, Cicchetti, & Toth, 2006; Nelson & Carver, 1998).  One mechanism for this biological insult to memory function is thought to be primarily the effect of excessive glucocorticoids, which damage the developing structures involved in memory contextualization and storage, such as the hippocampus (Sapolsky, 2000; Sapolsky, Uno, Rebert, & Finch, 1990).  It is clear that over the course of formative development, exposure to violent trauma and maltreatment can affect the degree and nature of changes in the neurobiology of the brain.

(Pages 203 – 205)

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The Relational Context

“The violent traumatization of an infant or very young child, whether due to maltreatment or exposure to familial, community, war, or terrorist violence, is most significantly a breach in safety.  Unlike older children or adults, very young children experience their world contextually, from within the embrace of the primary attachment relationship (Scheeringa & Zeanah, 2001).  Their sense and expectation of safety are therefore inherently bound to the caregiver.  To appreciate the effects of violence on young children requires an understanding of the goals and mechanisms involved in the attachment relationship as well as the ways in which trauma impacts attachment.”

Attachment, Safety, and Violence

“In the anchoring concept of attachment theory, the ethological wisdom of a caregiver-infant behavioral system is seen as ensuring species’ survival (Bowlby, 1969).  The infant’s drive to maintain safety is paramount and is expressed in attachment behaviors that may phenotypically change over time but that serve the same purposeful goal of achieving “felt security” (Bretherton, 1990).  Perturbations in the infant’s ability to achieve felt security necessarily result in adaptations that may be more or less pernicious, depending on the quality and degree of frustration.  In response to the primary attachment figure’s track record of providing “felt” security, the infant constructs an “internal working model” of self and other.  This internal representation consolidates over the first 3 years of life and guides the infant’s expectations and behaviors in times of stress.

“The experience of violence, with its attendant physiological “felt anxiety” might therefore be conceptualized as the exact affective opposite of felt security.  The young child does not yet have the cognitive ability to mediate feelings of fear that result when exposed to violence, either as a victim or witness.  For young children, the caregiver’s role is to function as external regulator of negative or overwhelming internal affect and sensation.  Several violence scenarios may be imagined in which the caregiver is unavailable to soothe infant anxiety:  when the caregiver is being victimized, when the caregiver is a witness to violence and becomes too hyperaroused or too dissociated/avoidant to provide safety, or when the caregiver is the source of the violence – as in the case of parental child abuse (Carlson, 2000).  A toddler who has internalized a working model in which he or she is unprotected and repeatedly left subject to overwhelming fear – one of the definitional criterion for trauma – may develop what has been termed distortions in secure-base behavior (Lieberman & Pawl, 1990).  Such distortions are, in fact, attempts by the child to manage unmanageable anxiety without the actual or “real time” mentally represented assistance of the caregiver.

“If early childhood is characterized by a relational context in which the child’s ability to manage stress is determined by caregiver response, then the mental health status of the caregiver becomes a vital concern.  Fraiberg, Adelson, and Shapiro (1975) called attention to the profound effects of maternal mental health on the developing child.  The “ghosts in the nursery” that Fraiberg et al. described were malevolent internalized attachment figures who had subjected the caregiver to various forms of maltreatment during his or her own childhood.  Fraiberg et. al. observed that caregiver traumatization in the past resulted in (1) his or her present-day inability to respond appropriately to infant anxiety, or (2) his or her engagement in behavior that actually induced anxiety.  From an attachment perspective, the infant’s working model of self and other is thereby shaped by the caregiver’s disturbed attachment representations.

“Exploring representational models, Fonagy et. al. (Fonagy, Moran, Steele, Steele, & Higgitt, 1991; Fonagy, Steele, Moran, Steele, & Higgitt, 1993) identified the capacity for “reflective functioning” as an awareness of a meaningful relationship between underlying mental states (feelings, thoughts, motivations, intentions) and behavior in and between both self and others.  Fonagy’s group found that caregiver reflective functioning was significantly predictive of infant attachment classification.  The caregiver’s capacity to “read” infant mental states accurately, and with inference of meaning, allows for sensitively attuned responses that create a subjective experience of security/safety and support the infant’s developing capacity for self-regulation (Bretherton & Munholland, 1999).  However, when engaging in reflective functioning leads to the experiencing of highly negative affect, certain aspects of mental functioning may be defensively inhibited (Fonagy, Steele, Steele, Higgitt, & Target, 1994) or excluded (Bretherton, 1990).  A caregiver in a state of defensive inhibition will be incapable of accurately responding to and reflecting the child’s mental state, leaving the child to manage states of arousal and anxiety on his or her own.  Consistent with this formulation is the finding that young children assessed as having a disorganized attachment have caregivers who are often unresolved with respect to past traumatic experience (Lyons-Ruth & Jacobvitz, 1999).  In short, caregiver history of attachment relationships and of trauma exposure determines not only the dyad’s quality of attachment, via reflective functioning, but additionally the manner in which trauma exposure will be processed by both child and caregiver.

“Thus, traumatic violence can interfere with the initial development of a secure and organized attachment or derail a previously secure attachment if the caregiver is sufficiently adversely affected.  Disturbances in attachment, in turn, confer increased [sic] for (1) recovery from trauma exposure by the child and/or caregiver (Fisher, Gunnar, Dozier, Bruce, & Pears, 2006), (2) enactment of maltreatment by the traumatized caregiver (Cicchetti, Rogosch, & Toth, 2006), (3) child exposure to trauma via inadequate caregiver monitoring (Schechter, 2006; Schechter, Brunelli, Cunningham, Brown, & Baca, 2002; Schechter et al., 2005), and (4) subsequent repetition and transmission of risk by the traumatized child and/or caregiver (Weinfield, Whaley, & Egeland, 2004).  Such evidence supports the contention that we must view infant mental health disturbances through the dual conceptual lenses of attachment theory and trauma theory (Lieberman, 2004).”  (pages 205 – 206)

Relational Neurobiology

Like all psychological functions, the child’s expectations in relation to attachment figures have neurobiological correlates.  In addition to the effects of cortisol noted earlier, physical abuse, compounding its clear effects on emotion regulation and separation anxiety within the context of attachment, has been found to be associated with attentional dysregulation and selective biases to angry and negative affect (Pollak & Torrey-Schell, 2003).

“Moreover, from early infancy, children are dependent on their attachment figures to reflect back to them how they are feeling and to make sense of their experience.  Expectation of the contingent responsiveness during early infancy has been described empirically in the work of Gergely and Watson (1996), who also first described the “marking” of the infant’s affect by the primary caregiver – the processing and modulation of that affect, which feeds back a sense of empathy as well as serving a modulatory function for the baby, beginning in the period of the second to fifth months of life.  Subsequently, Gergely (2001) noted that lack of marking and overidentification with the child’s perspective may interfere with affect regulation, particularly around crises and trauma.

“We now know that specific neural circuits in the developing brain, among which the mirror neuron system figures prominently, are crucial to the development of social cognition, self-awareness, affect regulation, and learning (Jacoboni & Dapretto, 2006).  The functional implications of these cortical pre-motor planning and parietal structures in the context of early development are only just beginning to be understood.  The impact of violence exposure on the development of these circuits with respect to expression of aggression remains to be studied.

Myron Hofer (1984) has described multiple “hidden regulators” embedded within the attachment system across mammalian species.  The need for mutual regulation of emotion and arousal in humans lasts approximately as long as it takes for integrative structures in the brain to myelinate and prefrontal cortical areas to develop, all of which serve to assist the child in self-regulation in the face of stress and fear.  In other words, the primary caregiver is, during the first 5 years of life, crucial to the infant’s developing self-regulation.  The hidden regulators embedded within the attachment system include those of sleep, feeding, digestion, and excretion as well as higher functions of emotion, arousal, and attention.  The literature contains many examples of how the sequelae of a caregiver’s experience of violent trauma and maltreatment, PTSD, affective disorders, severe personality disorders, and substance abuse can impair this fundamental regulatory function during formative stages of development, both at the representational and behavioral levels of attachment.  (Lyons-Ruth & Block, 1996; Schechter et al., 2005; Theran, Levendosky, Bogat, & Huth-Bocks, 2005), and contribute to intergenerational transmission of violent trauma and maltreatment.

“Neurobiologically based studies of primates, specifically, macaque monkeys, have helped to elucidate the role of attachment in interrupting versus promoting intergenerational transmission of maltreatment (Barr et al., 2004; Maestripieri, 2005; Shannon et al., 2005).  In Shannon et al.’s study (2005), maternal absence (i.e., neglect) was associated with decreased serotonin replenishment, a finding associated with mood and impulse disorders, as well as with increased alcohol consumption (in Barr e al.’s study, 2004).

“Recent research has also supported transgenerational transmission of biological response to trauma.  Whether this finding proves ultimately to be a risk or resilience factor remains a question.  An affected mother’s exposure to violent trauma during pregnancy (i.e., the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City) and her glucocorticoid stress response were linked to the glucocorticoid levels, upregulation of the receptor setpoint, and behavior of her infant by 9 months of life (Yehuda et al., 2005)….  Could this transmission of response to shared stress during pregnancy be one example at the very beginning of the organism’s life of adaptation in the service of evolution?  Is the mother’s biology preparing the offspring for expectation of threat?  If so, can one say that the development of PTSD (and/or other posttraumatic psychopathology) is a form of risk if no further threat actually exists, or resilience in the form of potentially beneficial hypervigilance to actual subsequent threat?  [bold type is mine]

“As the hypothalamic-midbrain-limbic-paralimbic-cortical circuits in the caregiver respond jointly to infant stimuli, as has been found in recent neuroimaging studies among normative mother-infant dyads (Swain, Lorberbaum, Kose, & Strathearn, 2007), one can imagine a cycle of dysregulation in which unquelled infant distress becomes a stressor particularly for a traumatized parent.  Indeed, while watching video clips of their children during separation and other stressful moments, group differences between violence-exposed mothers of toddlers and nonexposed mothers have been noted with respect to measures of integrative behavior, autonomic nervous system activity, and brain activation (Schechter, 2006).

“We know that an important determinant of the effects of traumatic exposure (e.g., how long they endure) is the primary caregiver’s ability to help restore a sense of safety via regulation of infant emotion, sleep, arousal, and attention (Laor, Wolmer, & Cohen, 2001; Scheeringa & Zeanah, 2001).  These emerging findings may illuminate the ways in which the experience of violent trauma and its sequelae interfere with this primary caregiving function.  On a positive note, we have also begun to understand how new relationships, most dramatically that of foster care, can curb if not reverse at least some of the effects of early violent trauma exposure (Fisher et al., 2006; Zeanah et al., 2001).

(Pages 206 – 208)

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