Sudden And Lasting Separation From Parent Can Permanently Alter Brain Development

Humans are very susceptible to developmental issues when there is a lack of parental or primary caregiver presence. These issues are magnified the earlier this separation occurs and compounded the longer the separation lasts. The first two years are regarded as some of the most vital in terms of brain development due to neuron/synaptic pruning of the overabundant neuron connections that are made.

Simply put, without a constant, and especially positive, primary caregiver or parental presence fewer neuron connections are created. From this smaller number more are pruned back with the human brain reaching around 90% of its size by the age of 3, this is a critical time in a child’s development. 

History of Bonding

The developmental theory called Attachment Theory was formulated in 1969 by John Bowlby who studied the correlation between maternal deprivation and juvenile delinquency and showed that on a baseline evolutionary perspective humans have an intrinsic drive towards proximity-seeking behaviors. 

As a species, we tend to attach to a primary caregiver, which is in many cases a parental figure, and based on that relationship our brain development can either thrive or be impeded. 

Effects of Neglect

James Swain of the Child Study Center at Yale University utilized Bowlby’s theory to further study the effects and found that there was a “measurable difference in early bonding that leads to long-standing patterns of thought and behavior.” 

Robert Winston and Rebecca Chicot in their research, The Importance of Early Bonding on the Long-Term Mental Health and Resilience of Children, studied the importance of positive (taking the form of love, kindness, and care) experiences on the brain development of children and how the lack of such can lead to “long-term mental health problems as well as to reduced overall potential and happiness.” 

Dr. Teicher of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program studied pathology in children who suffered from [severe] separation from primary caregivers or parents in his paper, Wounds That Time Won’t Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse, and found the following: 

  • Reduced growth in the left hemisphere which may lead to associated increased depression risk for depression.
  • Increased sensitivity in the limbic system which can lead to anxiety disorders.
  • Reduced growth in the hippocampus that could contribute to learning and memory impairments.

Creating a positive environment for a child to grow and attach to a primary caregiver or parent is vital to their well-being and future success. Taking that away, except in the circumstances of abuse and neglect, stunts the child in nearly irreparable ways. All around the world from the war zones in Syria, global child trafficking, detention camps in America, and many other circumstances children are suffering greatly and the effects of this grow under the surface. 

We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of innocents. 

Choose your Reaction!