Infant Abuse and Neglect and Social Control

The phrase “social control” raises the question of who is doing the controlling, but I’m usually using the term in a broader sense of the self-perpetuating patterns of child abuse and neglect in this culture and how they sustain the social and economic systems which in turn tend to perpetuate them. The system is an entity composed of mutually reinforcing (collectively autocatalytic) and entangled feedback loops on many nested levels (neurological, psychological, social, political and economic).   This nested looping structure is the causal structure of a biological system.   Your body is a totalitarian dictatorship consisting of individual cells.  What would happen if those cells were conscious enough to see their individual lives in the overall context of the body?  The internet may allow that to happen on a planetary level.

Predictably, the power imbalance between children and adults, combined with unconscious repetition of parenting behavior tends to harm children as a group, and their neurological adaptation to this harm resonates throughout the culture, creating a “standing wave” of violence and abuse in each new generation and re-expressed in our economic and political systems, giving rise to the reptilian “body” we inhabit today.  If we are to create a peaceful world we need to populate it with peaceful people. We are always only a generation away from doing so.

We all gain or lose from the emergent evolution or devolution of the cultural body we inhabit.  Everyone loves their children. In that sense, our aspirations are one with those of the “ruling elite”, whose “rule” turns out to be delusional in that even they cannot escape their own childhoods.

The most pivotal point to apply pressure is in medical obstetrical practices which have done so much harm to this world.

If we have [early] pleasurable sensory stimulation, that’s the brain templates that will be images of pleasure.   If they are painful they will be images of pain.  And pain evokes violent responses.  But something else invokes violent responses – the absence of pleasure – and that’s different than the sensory event of pain, and most people don’t appreciate that distinction.  In fact, more damage occurs with the sensory deprivation of pleasure than the actual experiencing of physical, painful trauma.  So we really have to look at the trauma of sensory deprivation of physical pleasure and that translates into the separations experiences, the isolation experiences of the infant from the mother, that’s the beginning.  — James Prescott

A baby’s developing body and brain mirror and reflect, lifelong, the emotional-sensory environment provided by its first primary relationship, that is with its mother. The Origins of Love & Violence (please see below) take root in this first, primary sensory environment. What we call “affectional bonding” or nurturing, or its absence– very early in life–structures the developing brain to interpret the world and its relationships as peaceful, pleasurable and loving or hostile, painful and violent depending on trust or anxiety experienced in this first relationship.

The biological processes involved in the Origins of Love & Violence are no longer a mystery. During pregnancy a mother’s body provides the sensory stimulation; the taste, touch, smell, sight, sound, and the pleasure or pain associated with these sensations that shape her baby’s brain. The state of the mother’s own body, in relationship to her environment, safe and nurturing, or unsafe and anxious, is mirrored in the baby’s developing brain and nervous system. If mother feels safe and is herself nurtured, her baby’s brain, with its creative capacities, will reap the benefit. If mother feels unloved or unsupported, is threatened, anxious, and fearful, nature will give greater emphasis to her baby’s ancient core brain, with its defensive and survival systems, at the expense of evolution’s newer creative capacities.

Watch “James W. Prescott Bonding, Brain, Intelligence & PLAY” on vimeo:

What begins in pregnancy continues and expands at birth. And nature intends that direct intimate contact with mother’s body will provide the pleasurable stimulation and emotional nurturing, the essential nutrients needed for her baby to develop a normal and healthy brain and nervous system.

During pregnancy, birth and beyond, if not interfered with, nature locks the mother and baby’s biorhythms, heart frequencies, hormonal balances, sleep patterns and a thousand other living systems into reciprocal bonded patterns. The baby provides the precise stimulus for mother to open and develop new capacities, and mother does the same for her baby. Their language is non-verbal; sensation and feeling. Nature assumes this bond will develop and places baby close to the mother’s body and breast for just this reason, and for an extended period of time. Interfering with this close, intimate, skin-to-skin contact prevents a vital exchange of sensory experiences, nutrients and information required for normal and healthy brain development.

The absence of what we call bonding is neglect and abuse. Recently researchers at the McLean Hospital identified four types of permanent brain abnormalities caused by early childhood abuse and neglect. These and many other studies confirm what James W. Prescott, Ph.D., and associates discovered in the 1960’s and 1970’s; that lack of affectionate, intimate contact between mothers and infants during the most sensitive periods of brain growth may result in permanent brain abnormalities associated with juvenile and adult patterns of depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, aggression and violence.

Today the mirrored-reciprocal relationship we call bonding is threatened. Mothers are not valued, nurtured or supported by the culture. Drugs and technological birth practices routinely separate mothers and babies during the most sensitive bonding period. Single parent families, an euphemism for single moms, without the support, mentoring, and nurturing of extended families and communities, routinely place the majority of infants and young children in institutional childcare for extended periods of time, shortly after birth. Lack of initial bonding, institutional childcare, and social pressures, such as work schedules and welfare reform prevent most mothers from bonding with and breast-feeding their babies.

Nothing can quite replace the loving touch and nurturing a mother provides for her baby, and through her touch she nurtures all of humanity. And what about fathers? It is the primary role of males to protect and support the women they love, so they can nurture all our children.

Maria Montessori claimed that humankind abandoned in this early formative period becomes the worst threat to its own survival. To betray this essential need for nurturing which means loving, pleasurable touch and body contact, especially in males, who are biologically most vulnerable early in life, results in increasing numbers of juvenile and adult males who batter, abuse and rape females, the true source of the nurturing they need. And this cycle of violence spreads throughout society and the world.

What you will find in this section, Bonding & Violence, is the historical research, the politics, interviews, past publications and copies of rare footage documenting how an absence of nurturing, affection, playful movement and breast feeding results in a variety of brain abnormalities associated with depression, aggression, impulse dyscontrol, substance abuse, obesity and violence.

Some of the information is highly technical, archived here for historical and research purposes. All is accessible and may be of interest to interested parents, educators, health and child care professionals.

In 1952 John Steinbeck wrote in East of Eden: “The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt–and there is the story of mankind.” Dr. Prescott’s pioneering research found here explains the Origins of Love & Violence, dramatically, clearly. It is an honor to have his work represented here as part of Touch the Future.

The Origins of Love & Violence

James W. Prescott
is a developmental neuropsychologist and cross-cultural psychologist. For fifteen years he conducted research on origins of violence for the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, NIH, and has given testimony on the origins of violence before the U.S. Congress; the Senate of Canada, and many other legislative and professional organizations.

Michael Mendizza is a documentary film-maker and co-founder of Touch The Future.

M: If there was one thing that you could do to reduce violence, what would that be?

J: There are two fundamental issues. One is the issue of the bonded and unbonded child. The other is full gender equality. Until women are able to control their own body, and not just reproduction but the whole spectrum of her sexuality, it will be very difficult to achieve the first step which is the bonded child. Just look at all the violence against women, the rapes, domestic violence, battered women, it’s epidemic, as is child abuse and neglect.

M: Most people would say that we males cause most of this violence.

J: So, we have to trace the roots of what produces the violent male? And also ask the question, why more and more women are being violent against their own children? What causes the anger and rage which leads to violence? What encodes the brain for anger and rage, as opposed to peace and tranquillity? We have answers based on substantial scientific data. Yet the deeper question remains. What prevents us from acting on the data we have gathered over the past twenty-five years?

M: David Bohm and our Dialogue project looks at this question. Professor Bohm points out that we have constructed very deep and powerful defense structures which distort our perception and these barriers are built into the nervous system.

J: Wilhelm Reich, the German Psychoanalyst, who had major differences with Freud, saw sexuality, when abused in childhood, leading to what he called the emotional plague; and the “armor” we develop is to protect this emotional-sexual core.

M: For example?

J: With the ability to experience joy and pleasure, you have a more openness toward life and change. People who are rigid, highly armored, are limited in their capacity to feel empathy, compassion or to change. Bohm’s work or any attempt to deal with adults who are already structured, already armored, requires an enormous amount of work. From a purely statistical point of view we have to question if this will bring about an significant change.

M: The ability to experience pleasure is blocked by this armor. Yet, pleasure is natural and necessary.

J: Unfortunately our society and culture are based on philosophical and religious world views and values. We have a moral philosophy which says that pleasure and the body is evil and the spirit or soul is good. There is a division between the natural state of the body and our ideas about good and evil. We are at war with our own bodies and in many ways women, her body and children are the targets in this war.

The very idea of Mother Earth carries the archetype of the body which implies pleasure, particularly, sexual pleasure. The Body, Woman and Pleasure however, have been equated with evil and wickedness by Plato and Pythagoras, in the old Testament and in most, if not all theistic religious traditions. There’s no major religion that affirms the full equality and dignity of woman with man. She’s always subordinate.

These religious systems have been used to control the individual and therefore society. This control is achieved by limiting access to pleasure. When young children are not touched, held or surrounded with affection, the neural systems required to experience pleasure are not developed which leads to an individual and a culture that is self-centered, violent and authoritarian. …

Rock-a-bye Baby:

Body Pleasure and The Origins of Violence:

How culture shapes the developing brain and the future of humanity:

Social/Behavioral Characteristics of Nurturant and Non-nurturant Cultures:

Also see the 2 interviews with Prescott in the podcast section.

How the Empire’s Child Abusers Censored Revolutionary Research into Causes of Violence

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