Early Child Development: The High Cost of Abuse and Neglect

Brain Plasticity-Cost By Age

Brain Plasticity-Cost By Age

We know the first years of development are critical: children abused or neglected in the first two years tend to be permanently affected, from having insecure attachment types (avoidant or anxious) to greater rates of psychosis and criminal behavior. This story from WBUR-Boston discusses the damage done and the higher cost of therapy as the age of intervention goes up. While they’ve pulled the cost estimate out of the air, there is no doubt it’s large:

But brain change gets harder as time passes, says Nelson of Children’s Hospital. It’s critical to intervene early before brain damage takes place, he says, to provide support for parents and caregivers, treatment and family therapy and, if need be, to remove children from abusive homes. Interventions done later in life will likely be less successful in rerouting the brain wiring than interventions done earlier, when the brain is more plastic, he says.

“If you have a plastic circuit then you might be able to overcome early adversity when placed in a better environment because the brain is still plastic enough to change,” he says.

The cost of delaying is huge — not only in human terms, but also financially. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, “the total lifetime cost of child maltreatment is $124 billion each year.”

In western countries, child welfare authorities attempt intervention when physical abuse is reported. This is a poor substitute for extended family and village life which, in times past, served as a backup to parents in rescuing children from poor parenting. The rootless and urban now live more anonymously, and children are more likely suffer from bad parenting without anyone noticing anything amiss until the hell-child is released into society, which in some neighborhoods means joining a gang of other children similarly impaired. If “everyone” (government agencies) is responsible, no one is responsible

Outside of Big Brother baby monitoring telescreens in every home, what can be done? We know it helps to have two parents, which improves attention levels and makes it more likely one is secure and good at parenting. We know intact families are better than broken ones, and we know parents who were badly brought up themselves are less likely to be good parents to their children. On top of that, parents who care for their children are more likely to wait for economic circumstances which allow them to be raised with adequate resources, while less responsible people don’t look ahead and have children despite their lack of ability to support them.

I don’t have an answer for this. It’s not imaginable that “society” can monitor parenting at this level without becoming 1984-level intrusive. It’s not likely a social movement will return stable nuclear families, Mormon-like, to the norm. It’s impossibly expensive to apply therapy and intervention to every child affected when it becomes obvious there is a problem, in school years or after.

But this question should be one of the big ones that we look at. Societies with high proportions of dysfunctional citizens are eventually displaced by a more organized group. The Romans probably wondered why they could not hold back the barbarian hordes despite their high level of sophistication and wealth….

More on education and child development :

Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
Early Child Development: The High Cost of Abuse and Neglect
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
Free Range Kids vs Paranoid Child Welfare Authorities
“Crying It Out” – Parental Malpractice!
Brazilian For-Profit Universities Bring Quality With Quantity
The Affordable, Effective University: Indiana and Mitch Daniels
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
“Attachment Parenting” – Good Idea Taken Too Far?
Real Self-Esteem: Trophies for Everyone?
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Steven Pinker on Harvard and Meritocracy
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities

Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.

You’ve read my book and others and discover that you treat people badly and rationalize that it’s not really your fault — your genes and your parents sabotaged you. Certainly it’s true most abusers are acting out defense mechanisms they developed as children to protect themselves from abuse; one example is a young man who was undermined by his mother and attacked by a knife-wielding stepfather. In his family, violent outrage at the first sign of trouble was the only defense, and for the rest of his life, any imagined slight turned on his attack mechanism. Foul-mouthed tantrums and violence undermined any relationship he was able to start.

And the dismissive or abusive parent got that way most likely because they were mistreated or badly cared for by their parents. And so forth — sometimes leading back to a source like an ancestor orphaned by war or a parent with organic mental illness. As all of your ancestors had to act to succeed in protecting their children so that you could be alive, they were in the most important sense successful — and we have to forgive them for not getting everything right, for not overcoming their flawed legacy to give you the best possible emotional upbringing. And so the responsibility now rests with you to fix what they didn’t understand or couldn’t fix.

Your parents may have left you in sad shape by leaving you afraid of relying on anyone; or too afraid they wouldn’t love you to give anyone near you any freedom, or prone to violence or manipulative behavior. But you are the one who’s here now and can do something about it, because you know what the problem is. Your parents didn’t understand it and didn’t break the chain of dysfunction, but you can. You can stop the craziness — treat yourself and your loved ones better; bring up your children so that they know you’re always there to help, but also letting them go to achieve on their own. It’s hard but you have the power and the knowledge. Use it.

More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking

Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
“Millionaire Matchmaker”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“Blue Valentine”
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)