Modern Parenting Practices Damage Child Brains?

Infant formula, letting babies cry it out and get this, letting kids play alone in their bedrooms pose significant dangers to children's cognitive, emotional and social development. Just when I thought it was safe to indulge in some of the feel-good karma of the new year comes this parenting dreck in the form of a science news update from of all places not Fox News, not Natural Living, not Lactation R Us or Babble but Science Daily. Sorry mom, I can't say something nice and for my own mental balance I simply can't ignore this doozy.

The headline?

Modern Parenting May Hinder Brain Development, Research Suggests.

I nearly choked on my non-fat half-caf latte. The Science Daily briefing contains more red-flags than Courtney Love's Twitter feed:

1. References to Nature/Pre-Industrial Civilizations

This new research links certain early, nurturing parenting practices -- the kind common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies -- to specific, healthy emotional outcomes in adulthood, and has many experts rethinking some of our modern, cultural child-rearing "norms."

(No, wandering around the artisianal cheese and yarn shops of Park Slope with your baby swaddled tightly against your engorged breasts in a 100% organic cotton sling is not a close approximation of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle unless you're stockpiling berries and nuts for the next drought and your man is honing his homemade spear instead of his social media skills.)

2. Dated Pop Neuropsychology

"The right brain, which governs much of our self-regulation, creativity and empathy, can grow throughout life. The right brain grows though full-body experience like rough-and-tumble play, dancing or freelance artistic creation. So at any point, a parent can take up a creative activity with a child and they can grow together."

3. A General (i.e. Vague) Statement about the State of Children's Health 

"Life outcomes for American youth are worsening, especially in comparison to 50 years ago," says Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology who specializes in moral development in children and how early life experiences can influence brain development.

4. An Epidemic - OF COURSE epidemic of anxiety and depression among all age groups, including young children; rising rates of aggressive behavior and delinquency in young children; and decreasing empathy, the backbone of compassionate, moral behavior, among college students, are shown in research.

5. An Interdisciplinary Pile of Research

...according to an interdisciplinary body of research...

No this article isn't about a single study or even a single body of research but an interdisciplinary symposium. Not that there's anything inherently flawed with an academic mash-up of sorts. It's kind of like Paul McCartney teaming up with Dave Grohl.  Not that it was a disaster. Note to Eddie Vedder, keep screening those calls.  

6. Research Presented at a Symposium (i.e. unpublished research, not subjected to peer-review)

The 2012 Symposium on Human Evolution and Human Development at Notre Dame University.

Oh my. The symposium calls to mind one of those nightmarish (for self-respecting introverts) weekend retreats my mom dragged me to back in the 1970s. Here's a small sampling of the presentations:

The Role of Play in the Development of Social and Emotional Competence: Hunter-Gatherers, 1950s America, and Now 

From the Emergent Drama of Interpretation to Enscreenment

Are We Violating Evolved, Expected Caregiving and Does It Matter?

Oh there's a violation alright.


Awesome Mom said...

I saw this and wondered if you would comment on it.

"No, wandering around the artisianal cheese and yarn shops of Park Slope with your baby swaddled tightly against your engorged breasts in 100% organic cotton is not a close approximation of the hunter-gathering lifestyle unless you're stockpiling berries and nuts for the next drought and your man is honing his homemade spear instead of his social media skills."

That had me loling because it reminds me so much of the people in the are I live in.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hey Awesome, Happy New Year. I trust everyone's well if you're "here." Is your house exploding with Hot Wheels yet??

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Awesome, I tried not to comment because I have been trying to be positive. Where'd you see it? Do you get the Science Daily updates in your email?

Awesome Mom said...

Santa did bring us some Hot Wheels but the most popular gift was Legos (my feet were cringing as the presents were opened).

I found this when I was using Stumble Upon. Sometimes it amuses me to randomly surf and one of my interests is parenting and I ended up there. It got the thumbs down button from me you can be sure.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Obviously, the thumbs down!!! I hear you on the Legos, brutal in the middle of the night. Or the Oriental carpets...