–New study reveals why parenting is THE social justice issue of our time.–
In a study of 14,000 U.S. children, 40 percent lack strong emotional bonds — what psychologists call “secure attachment”
Written by researchers from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, the report uses data collected by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative U.S. study of 14,000 children born in 2001. The researchers also reviewed more than 100 academic studies.
Their analysis shows that about 60 percent of children develop strong attachments to their parents, which are formed through simple actions, such as holding a baby lovingly and responding to the baby’s needs. Such actions support children’s social and emotional development, which, in turn, strengthens their cognitive development, the researchers write. These children are more likely to be resilient to poverty, family instability, parental stress and depression. Additionally, if boys growing up in poverty have strong parental attachments, they are two and a half times less likely to display behavior problems at school.
The approximately 40 percent who lack secure attachments, on the other hand, are more likely to have poorer language and behavior before entering school. This effect continues throughout the children’s lives, and such children are more likely to leave school without further education, employment or training, the researchers write. Among children growing up in poverty, poor parental care and insecure attachment before age four strongly predicted a failure to complete school. Of the 40 percent who lack secure attachments, 25 percent avoid their parents when they are upset (because their parents are ignoring their needs), and 15 percent resist their parents because their parents cause them distress.
Susan Campbell, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, said insecure attachments emerge when primary caregivers are not “tuned in” to their infant’s social signals, especially their cries of distress during infancy. “When helpless infants learn early that their cries will be responded to, they also learn that their needs will be met, and they are likely to form a secure attachment to their parents,” Campbell said. “However, when caregivers are overwhelmed because of their own difficulties, infants are more likely to learn that the world is not a safe place — leading them to become needy, frustrated, withdrawn or disorganized. The researchers argue that many parents — including middle-class parents — need more support to provide proper parenting…. READ THE REST HERE.
Detachment is the atomic level of the Culture of Death. We cluck about the immorality of our culture, about poverty, crime, violence, and porn. And these are all horrible things. But we fail to see the foundation for all these social evils that Satan is building right under our feet and in our own homes. It’s easy to fuss about “the media” and “the culture” etc. But it is hard, genuinely, really, really hard, to go pick up that crying baby when we already feel drained. And yet this the great spiritually transformative work that lies at the heart of The Corporal Works of Mommy and Daddy.
Am I saying that exhausted mothers should torture themselves to meet everybody’s needs all by themselves? Absolutely not. Every person needs help and has a right to get whatever help they need to be their best selves. That should go without saying.
Attachment: The Root of Social Transformation
But every time Satan convinces a mother or father to remain consistently deaf to the cries of their children because it is somehow “bad” or even “unnecessary” or “ridiculous” to respond to those cries, he is laying the foundation for all these other social evils. As Catholics, if we want to evangelize the culture, if we want to beat poverty, make children resilient against the evils of our fallen world, decrease the crime rate, drug usage rates, incidence of promiscuity, and pornography rates, the single most important things we can do are 1) respond to our babies cries promptly, generously, and consistently, 2) shower our children with extravagant affection, and 3) use gentle guidance approaches to discipline that teach our children how to behavior virtuously instead of simply punishing bad behavior and crossing our fingers that they’ll figure out how to do what’s right on their own through the process of elimination.
Oversimplification? Survey says…
I realize that this strikes some people as a ridiculous oversimplification. I remember the editor of the new edition of Beyond the Birds and the Bees saying to me, incredulously, “It’s like you’re saying that the way to make our kids more moral is to hug them more.” And, although that is a bit of an exaggeration, yes. That is more or less exactly what I am saying. Or rather, that is, more or less, what hundreds of studies of tens of thousands of children over the last 60 years are saying. Over and over and over again.
And why should this come as such a surprise to us? Our Church tells us over and over–and especially in Pope St John Paul’s theology of the body–that we were created for communion. The family is the “icon of the Trinity” the most intimate communion that ever existed! And we are made in the image of that intimate communion. Relationship IS the very essence of our being. When we try to escape that reality, or ignore it, limit it, or tamp it down, bad things happen–to our kids, our families, and our world. We think that having children need us is somehow crippling. The exact opposite is true. Creating communion with our children is the most liberating thing we can do both for ourselves and for them.
Want To Change The World?
Are there lots of social ills? There sure are. But the cure really is pretty simple. As St. Teresa of Calcutta put it, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your families.” It turns out, there’s a lot of research to support that pithy, but powerfully world-changing, sentiment.
If you want to discover more ways parents can change the world through love, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids and Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First 3 Years of Parenthood.