David Brooks tells only part of the story; on Salon (and The Fix), making erroneous assumptions about parents

It’s terrific to see the CDC’s ACE Study, neurobiological research on children’s brains, and trauma-informed practices featured on Salon (Is Your Kid an Addict?) and by David Brooks in his column, The Psych Approach. Just terrific. The more information out there, the better.

Brooks uses Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, to discuss the “psychologizing of domestic policy”. What he means by that is moving from “the material and bureaucratic things that correlate to school failure” (e.g. poverty, school class size) to “the

Continue reading

Changing our systems from punishment, shame and blame to compassionate, solution-oriented problem-solving

Many people have heard about the school-to-prison pipeline — how harsh school discipline policies funnel kids into the criminal justice system. Last month, the Children’s Defense Fund  issued its 2012 report on the State of America’s Children, whose data show how black children move through the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline at higher rates than any other group. That’s just part of the story.

Diana Auborg Miller, program officer at the Stoneleigh Foundation, reviewed the report on the Huffington Post and on the Stoneleigh Foundation blog, pointing out that if black children escape the

Continue reading

It takes personal perseverance — and a village — to build resilience

There’s a new book out — Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges. It’s written by Steven Southwick, a Yale Medical School and Yale Child Study Center psychiatry professor who specializes in PTSD and resilience, and psychiatrist and neurobiologist Dennis S. Charney, dean of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

On Huffington Post yesterday, Southwick explained why he and Charney wrote the book. One reason was because they’d always wondered why some people were able to overcome adversity and others weren’t. In the book they looked at three groups: former prisoners of war in Vietnam, Special Forces instructors and civilians who found the strength to carry on after traumas, including the attack on the World Trade Center.

Continue reading

“Have-not” takes on a different meaning in James Heckman essay on disadvantaged children — the scarce resource is quality of parenting

In the current Boston Review, University of Chicago economist and Nobel Laureate James J. Heckman makes a powerful argument for social policy to improve the early lives of disadvantaged children.

He asks a series of questions to consider before implementing such a policy. The first is “Who should be targeted?” It is, of course, the disadvantaged.

Now, we all know that “disadvantaged” is often another word for “poverty”. But Heckman points out something very important: The “proper measure of being disadvantaged,” he notes, doesn’t necessarily mean the lack of money or even parents’ education.

“The available evidence suggests that the quality of parenting is the important scarce resource,”

Continue reading

She said that “Still Face Experiment” was hard to watch, and she’s right!

The “Still Face Experiment” has been around since 1975, when Drs. Ed Tronick, T. Berry Brazelton and two colleagues presented it to the Society for Research in Child Development. (Jason Goldman did a great writeup on Thoughtful Animal  about the experiment, the impact it had in understanding child development, and how it’s being used, including to predict child behavior.) Since this YouTube video of the experiment was posted in 2009, it’s been watched more than 760,000 times.

Tronick is director of UMass Boston’s Infant-Parent Mental Health Program, among many other activities, and he does research on how mothers’ depression and other stressful behaviors affect the emotional development and health of infants and children.

Continue reading

How children (don’t) succeed; a program that helps them succeed; should these studies be ACE-informed?

Claudia Gold, a pediatrician who blogs on Child in Mind and Boston.com, wrote a terrific post about Paul Tough and his new book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. You’ll be hearing a lot about it — he was interviewed yesterday on NPR, and also did a Q-and-A with the Hechinger Report on Huffington Post called “The Obama Administration’s Big Missed Opportunity”. (Gold also did a very thorough review of the book in a previous post.)

Gold took a somewhat different approach in her conversation with Tough. She believes that our current health care and education systems, our over-reliance on psychotropic drugs, and childism — defined by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl in Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children as “a prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs” — lead to inadvertent child maltreatment. In other words, high ACE scores.

Gold created a scenario of how health care, education and childism lead to children not succeeding. It’s one she sees or hears about all too often (hence the headline “How Children [Don’t] Succeed”). I hope you read it, because we all know that scenario or one that’s very similar.

She asked Tough about this, and used their conversation as a means to a create an interesting list of changes she recommends. Here are two out of the six:

1) Transform education of health care professionals, who are on the front lines with young children and families, to focus on relationships as the 4th vital sign. The American Academy of Pediatrics Early Brain and Child Development Initiative is an important step in the right direction.

Continue reading

When abused babies are like car crashes — journalists need to ask more questions about teen charged with child abuse

This 18-year-old was charged with felony child abuse, according to a story on SunHerald.com, a news site covering the Biloxi-Gulfport, MI, area. Police say he broke the leg of his two-month-old son. “Investigators believe that it was a case of a young parent getting frustrated with a crying baby while trying to change his diaper,” says the story.

The first thing that struck me is that this 18-year-old looks so much younger than 18. His wife is reported as being 16 years old. That’s a red flag. All parents need help with newborns. Young parents who are still children or barely adults usually need even more help.

The second thing that struck me is that if we ever have a shot at preventing childhood trauma, journalists need to report on child abuse the way we learned to report about traffic accidents.

What’s the link between a baby and a car crash? Bear with me. It won’t take long to explain.

Until the 1960s, traffic deaths and injuries were typically blamed on “the nut behind the wheel.” Really. Every single crash, death, and injury was the driver’s fault.

Those were the days when steering columns didn’t collapse, so that in crashes that people walk away from today, steering columns speared drivers through the heart with regularity. Telephone poles were planted only six inches from the edge of the pavement. Many intersections were death traps. Windshields broke into sharp pieces that peeled faces off. Dashboards were hard metal. If you were driving 20 mph, a sudden impact guaranteed that something in the car would injure you. Seat belts? Airbags? No such things.

The car and the road were ignored as contributing to fatalities and injuries. Then, in the 1960s, public health experts and injury control scientists included vehicles and roadways in their analysis of auto deaths and injuries. Since 1975, the U.S. Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) has gathered information about every U.S. vehicle fatality that includes data about the vehicle, the environmental conditions, and the driver.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: