Disharmony in the Land of Nod

The Huffington Post:

The most compelling personal memoirs — Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, and others — are not happy stories. They are recollections of childhood adversity, and rarely are they triumphant survivors’ tales. The most honest of these remembrances are accounts of the lingering scars and damage done.

And damage is done. Scientists have thoroughly documented the pernicious effects of traumatic childhood events, right down to the cellular level. The young brain is highly vulnerable to all sorts of stress, and study after study has shown that childhood troubles can skew the development of key neural networks involved in emotional stability.

But most of these studies have focused on extreme childhood trauma — physical and psychological abuse, even institutionalization — and the neurological consequences for older children and adults. What about very young kids, who might be experiencing less extreme forms of adversity, including parental discord? Household turmoil and angry conflict may be less alarming than the extremes of maltreatment, but they are presumably more common experiences. Is there a threshold for what’s damaging to the developing infant’s mind and brain?

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

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