The University of Notre Dame has released information from a study they conducted regarding the negative effects of some current childcare practices. In so many ways kids are better off today than they were half century ago. Advances in medicine and technology provide a wide range of children with advantages that would have been unheard of in the 1950s and 60s. But, this study contends that life outcomes for kids in America are worse than they were 50 years ago.
Some of the key issues that Notre Dame Professor of Psychology Dr. Darcia Narvaez examined was the use of infant formula, the decrease in constant touch as evidenced by infants sleeping in their own rooms, and the decrease in a network of adult caretakers. Children used to be raised not only by their mothers but also by their grandmothers, aunts, and other women in the community.
Many of today’s practices not only include the use of formula instead of breastfeeding, which creates a physical separation and allows for babies to feed themselves as soon as they are old enough to hold a bottle, but they also encourage parents to let their young child self soothe which may include letting them “cry it out.” Experts frequently advise parents not to respond too quickly to the needs of their baby lest they stifle their child’s ability to grow and be independent.
Some of these relatively modern practices may need to be rethought. We are now seeing very young children suffering from depression and anxiety. There are a growing number of kids who display a lack of empathy and moral behavior among college students has taken a nosedive. The trend seems to be decidedly downward in all of these areas and researchers have made a direct connection between early child rearing practices and this change.
It is the development of the right brain that appears to be affected by these parenting techniques which leaves us with some hopeful news. The right brain continues to grow throughout our life so, unlike other more fixed traits, those things governed by this brain region such as self-regulation, creativity and empathy can, for many people, be improved upon. Parents who recognize deficits in their children can introduce more creative play, along with physical activity, which may include rough and tumble for younger kids, or dance and movement for any age, all which encourage right brain growth.
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