According to an interdisciplinary research presented at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame, social practice and cultural influences of modern lifestyle are inhibiting the development of healthy brain and emotions in children.
According to Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at Notre Dame, the life outcomes of American youths are worsening day by day, especially in comparison to the past 50 years. Narvaez specializes in moral development and how early life experiences influence brain development.
The research suggests that misguided and reckless practices, along with modern cultural beliefs are destroying the basic development of children. Practices such as using infant formula instead of breast-feeding, isolating infants into their own rooms, and assuming that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ him or her are doing more harm than good.
Basic Parenting Mistakes That Exist Today
The new findings linked various early parenting practices to specific, healthy emotional outcomes in children and adults. The study has made many experts reconsider and re-evaluate some of the modern child-rearing ‘norms’ that exist in our culture today.
The US has seen a decline in all of the aforementioned care characteristics. Instead of being physically close to their parents, infants spend more time in carriers and strollers. Hardly 15 percent of mothers breast-feed their infants, extended families are broken apart and playing outside freely has decreased significantly since 1970.
Let’s Learn From Our Ancestors
Certain ancestral nurturing practices, such as breast-feeding, responding to infants crying, constant caressing and having many adult caregivers, have proved to positively influence the developing brain. This shapes the child’s personality, and also helps with physical and moral development.
Studies demonstrate that:
- Responding to a crying baby, instead of letting him or her ‘cry it out’, strongly influences the development of conscience
- A positive touch affects stress, controls impulses and promotes empathy
- Allowing the infant to freely play in nature affects social capacities and aggression
- A group of supportive caregivers helps develop IQ, ego resilience and empathy
Suggested Improvements: modern Parenting
An epidemic of depression and anxiety exists among all age groups. Rates of aggression, decreased empathy and delinquency are on the rise, especially among young children. Moral behavior and compassion is severely lacking in college students. Researchers highlight the importance of taking action immediately.
However, according to Narvaez relatives and teachers can positively influence children, helping them feel safe and making up for certain deficits later in life.
“The right brain, which controls most of our self-regulation, creativity and empathy, continues to grow throughout life via full-body experiences, such as rough-and-tumble play, dancing or freelance artistic creation. Hence, at any moment in their life, a parent can take up a creative activity with their child and both can grow together”.