Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology who specializes in moral development in children and how early life experiences can influence brain development presented new research at a Jan. 7, 2012, symposium that indicates several modern parental practices may hinder brain development in children.
This new research links certain early, nurturing parenting practices - the kind common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies - to specific, healthy emotional outcomes in adulthood, and has many experts rethinking some of our modern, cultural child rearing "norms."
These ancient practices have been shown to stress reactivity, impulse control, empathy, social capacities, aggression, IQ, and ego resilience. The lack of these qualities in many preteens and teens is indicative of a trend of worsening life outcomes and higher rates of mental and emotional disease in American youth according to the researchers.
Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will 'spoil' it," Narvaez says.
“Instead of being held, infants spend much more time in carriers, car seats and strollers than they did in the past. Only about 15 percent of mothers are breast feeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970. “
However, Narvaez claims all is not lost. The right brain governs much of our self-regulation, creativity and empathy and continues to grow through play and artistic endeavor. A parent can take up a physical or artistic activity with a child at any time and undo some of the damage that may have occurred from unintentional neglect that comes from accepted modern parenting practice.
Teen violence is happening at an alarming rate in Birmingham. The most grisly example, is the three teens charged with a quintuple homicide in Ensley in Oct. 2012. The trend has continued in the highest rates of murder in Birmingham in the last ten years occurring in 2012.
The research was reviewed at the Eureka Alert website the date of publication.