Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: children’s brains function better when they can see their mothers

The new study published in Psychological Science was reported in Pacific Standard.

Excerpt:

For little kids, seeing mom or dad nearby is a calming influence, maybe the difference between between perfect calm and a full-bore freakout. It’s as if having a trusted caregiver nearby transforms children from scared toddlers into confident adolescents. And in a way, a new report suggests, that’s what having mom around does to a kid’s brain.

When they’re first born and for years after, infants and young children can’t do a whole lot by themselves. They can’t eat on their own, they aren’t very good at managing their emotions, and it takes a while for them to learn how to dress themselves. Most children figure it out eventually, but in the meantime they need their parents to do a lot of that stuff for them. All the while, their brains are changing, too. Well into adolescence, kids’ brains undergoanatomical and physiological changes that affect the way we think and act.

[…]Young children’s brains responded differently based on whether they were looking at their mothers or strangers. In particular, their brains showed signs of positive amygdala-PFC connections when viewing pictures of strangers, but negative connections when viewing pictures of their mothers, suggesting more mature and stable brain function—and likely more mature and stable behavior, at least when moms were around. In contrast, tweens and teens had negative connections whether they were looking at their mothers or strangers. In other words, looking at pictures of their mothers made young children’s brains look a little more like those of adolescents.

The companion behavioral experiment backed up that thinking—young children made around 20 percent fewer errors when their mothers were present than when they weren’t, while there was no difference for adolescents. That combined with the fMRI results to suggest that mothers—and likely other caregivers—can provide an external source of mental regulation that young children won’t develop until later in life, the authors write in Psychological Science.

In view of the recent triumphs for gay marriage advocates, I think it’s worth remembering that gay marriage, like single motherhood, is not the best we can do for children. I think it’s a bad enough situation when the husband dies and leaves his children to be raised by the mother. That’s hard, but it’s not immoral. On the other hand, I think that deliberately choosing to deprive a child of his or her mother or father IS immoral. It’s child abuse, in my opinion. And that goes for gay marriage as well as “single motherhood by choice”. I also oppose frivolous divorce (“frivorce”), which is very popular in a nation that views structured courtship as “boring” and no-fault divorce as a woman’s right.

Previously, I blogged about another study that showed the importance of moms for young children.

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

I have a very good feminist non-Christian friend who sometimes comments here. I once asked her about marriage and she said that her skills would be wasting on raising children. I explained to her my view that a mother needs to stay at home with the children, and that is more important work. I expect my future wife to read all kinds of books on child care and to give the child attention, nutrition, exercise and play so that the child will grow up to be an effective Christian. Maybe I need to be clear. I am not going to spend hundreds of thousands per child with just any woman. I need a woman who can produce influential and effective Christians who will engage in the public square. And we do not entrust that job to just anyone. We want educated, professional women who are willing to be stay-at-home moms when it’s necessary to do that – for the sake of the children.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and at least a couple of years of employment. Then she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years, at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children. It’s not a waste of her talent to make the next William Lane Craig, or the next Marsha Blackburn, or the next Doug Axe, or the next Edith Hollan Jones.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Ryan T. Anderson: background on the same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court

This Daily Signal article is a great summary of everything that a lay-person like me or you ought to know about the case that is going to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Here are a few of the points I thought were most interesting:

2. The overarching question before the Supreme Court is not whether a male–female marriage policy is the best, but only whether it is allowed by the Constitution. The question is not whether government-recognized same-sex marriage is good or bad policy, but only whether it is required by the Constitution.

Those suing to overturn male-female marriage laws thus have to prove that the man–woman marriage policy that has existed in the United States throughout our entire history is prohibited by the Constitution. They cannot successfully so argue.

3. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito pointed out two years ago, there are two different visions of what marriage is on offer. One view of marriage sees it as primarily about consenting adult romance and care-giving. Another view of marriage sees it as a union of man and woman—husband and wife—so that children would have moms and dads.

Our Constitution is silent on which of these visions is correct, so We the People have constitutional authority to make marriage policy.

The debate over whether to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships is unlike the debate over interracial marriage. Race has absolutely nothing to do with marriage, and there were no reasonable arguments ever suggesting it did.

Laws that banned interracial marriage were unconstitutional and the Court was right to strike them down. But laws that define marriage as the union of a man and woman are constitutional, and the Court shouldn’t strike them down.

4. The only way the Court could strike down state laws that define marriage as the union of husband and wife is to adopt a view of marriage that sees it as an essentially genderless institution based primarily on the emotional needs of adults and then declare that the Constitution requires that the states (re)define marriage in such a way.

Equal protection alone is not enough. To strike down marriage laws, the Court would need to say that the vision of marriage that our law has long applied equally is just wrong: that the Constitution requires a different vision entirely.

But the Constitution does not require a new vision of marriage.

Advocates for the judicial redefinition of marriage cannot reasonably appeal to the authority of Windsor, to the text or original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, to the fundamental rights protected by the Due Process Clause, or to Loving v. Virginia. So, too, one cannot properly appeal to the Equal Protection Clause or to animus or Lawrence v. Texas.

Nor can one say that gays and lesbians are politically powerless, so one cannot claim they are a suspect class. Nor can one say that male–female marriage laws lack a rational basis or that they do not serve a compelling state interest in a narrowly tailored way, as explained in Heritage Foundation legal memorandum “Memo to Supreme Court: State Marriage Laws Are Constitutional.”

7. Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage: It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than the needs—or rights—of children. It teaches that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.

I think that’s the fundamental question in the marriage debate. The question is, is marriage a relationship that is geared towards producing children, and locking in husbands and wives together in an exclusive, permanent relationship so that those children have two people who are biologically-related to them who are nearby to watch over them and care for them. When I think about what it is like to be a little child, or even a little animal, it is obvious to me that we should be aggressive about encouraging and celebrating couples who have children and then stick together to raise them. It’s a hard, self-sacrificial job. It’s not about self-centered hedonism. It’s about doing the right thing to provide for the needs of children as they grow up. Marriage isn’t about grown-ups being happy, it’s about regulating sex for the benefit of children, and society as a whole. We do better together as a society with natural marriage.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , ,

New study: lack of secure attachment during early childhood harms children

This is from the leftist Brookings Institute, a respected think tank I usually disagree with.

They write about a new study:

Attachment theory is founded on the idea that an infant’s early relationship with their caregiver is crucial for social and emotional development. It is an old theory, born during the 1950s. But it can bring fresh light on issues of opportunity and equality today, as a three-decade longitudinal study of low-income children from Alan Sroufe, Byron Egeland, Elizabeth Carlson, and W. A. Collins, all University of Minnesota psychologists, demonstrates.

[…]Small infants are heavily dependent on caregivers, who must respond to their needs. But counter-intuitively, the infants who have a reliable caregiver are also most likely to become self-efficacious later.

Infants (aged 9 to 18 months) with responsive parents learn how their own behavior can impact their environment. This “call and response” process builds the infant’s sense of self-efficacy— one reason parents should pick up the sippy cup, especially for the hundredth time! But this virtuous learning cycle breaks down if the caregiver fails to respond adequately.

Here are the definitions:

  • Secure attachment: When the caregiver (mom, in this study) is present, the infant explores the room and interacts with the experimenter, occasionally returning to the caregiver for support. When the caregiver leaves, the child becomes sad and hesitates to interact with the experimenter, but upon their return, is visibly excited.
  • Anxious/resistant attachment: Regardless of the caregiver’s presence, the infant shows fear of the experimenter and novel situations—these infants cry more and explore the room less. They become upset when the caregiver leaves, and while they approach upon return often resist physical contact, as a form of “punishment”.
  • Anxious/avoidant attachment: No preference is shown between a caregiver and a stranger— infants play normally in the presence of the experimenter and show no sign of distress or interest when their caregiver leaves and returns. The experimenter and the caregiver can comfort the infant equally well.

And here the results:

The Minnesota study found that attachment makes a difference later in life. Without knowing students’ attachment history, preschool teachers judged those who had secure attachments to have higher self-esteem, to be more self-reliant, to be better at managing impulses, and to recover more easily from upsetting events. When teachers were asked which students, among those with serious struggles in class, nonetheless had “a core of inner self-worth, an indication that… maybe they could get better,” they picked students that had secure attachments as infants.

In contrast, children with anxious/resistant attachments:

  • tended to hover near teachers
  • became easily frustrated
  • were more likely to be seen as “dependent” by blinded observers
  • were less competent and patient with puzzles and other cognitive challenges

Children with anxious/avoidant attachments:

  • tended to be apathetic towards other children
  • failed to ask for adult help when stressed
  • were “often self-isolating”

Both groups had higher rates of anxiety and depression as teenagers.

So again, we are seeing that when it comes to parenting, you have to think about what you are doing. That doesn’t mean that you have to be slaves to your kids, or spoil them or hover over them. It means that what you are doing with your kids matters. It means that you need to make a plan to have enough time and money to be able to care for them. I think that the right time to talk about such things is during the courtship.

Also, one more point. If you meet people with some of these short comings, (I had most of the anxious/avoidant ones growing up), then try not to draw lines in the sand where you reject them over these shortcomings. Instead, do what I do. Recognize that these people have value and that if you take responsibility to care for them and supply for their needs, you might be able to guide them to do some pretty amazing things. Don’t be so self-centered that you expect people to be perfect so they don’t need anything from you. Nobody is perfect. Everybody has a story. If you want to be like Jesus, why not start by recognizing the effects of a disrupted childhood through study, and then make a plan to grow people – even difficult ones like me.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

New study: cohabitation produces far inferior outcomes to marriage

This study is from the American College of Pediatricians.

The Stream writes about the study:

The American College of Pediatricians recently published a paper, Cohabitation, which cautions adolescents and young adults about the negative consequences of cohabitation for both themselves and their children, and urges parents to teach their children about the advantages of waiting until marriage.

More young people are now first cohabiting than are marrying without prior cohabitation, yet research shows that, rather than being a stepping-stone to a healthy marriage, living together before marriage (cohabitation) makes couples more likely to break-up and more likely to divorce if they do marry. It results in lower marital satisfaction and increased negative communication.  Cohabiting couples spend less time together; men are more likely to spend their time on personal pleasure than do married men.

Commitment failure:

Cohabiting couples are now less likely to later marry than 40 years ago. Controlling for other factors that increase risk of divorce, marriages preceded by cohabitation are still 50 percent more likely to end in divorce.  (Some recent studies challenge this, but are scientifically flawed and omit the raw data.)  Also 27 percent of cohabitations dissolve without marriage in the first three years.

Domestic violence:

Cohabiters commit increased violence against their partner. Women are nine times more likely to be killed by a cohabiting partner than by their husband. Severe violence is four times as common among cohabiting couples; any violence is nearly 50 percent more common among couples cohabiting before marrying and doubled among couples continuing to cohabit after five years.

Alcohol abuse:

Men who cohabit without marrying in 5 to 10 years have more than double the rate of alcohol abuse as married men; women who cohabit without marrying have 4 to 7 times the rate of alcohol abuse as married women.

Infidelity:

Cohabiters, both men and women, have rates of infidelity in the preceding year more than triple that of married spouses. Among the married, those cohabiting prior to marriage were 50 percent more likely to be unfaithful as those marrying without cohabiting.

Poverty:

Poverty is more common among cohabitating women and their children. Their male partners have both a higher unemployment rate (15 percent vs 8 percent), and work less hours if employed.

Abortion:

Cohabitating women are ten times more likely to have an abortion than married women, and suffer from its associated mortality and morbidity. In fact, 89 percent of women who have had abortions have at one time cohabited; 40 percent have lived with three or more men. Abortion also puts future children at risk, especially from extremely premature birth.

Harm to children:

Children who survive also suffer due to parental cohabitation.  They have increased risk of losing a parent to divorce or separation, possibly multiple times.  Children born of cohabiting parents are over four times more likely to suffer separation of their parents by their third birthdays (49 percent) than those born to married parents (11 percent).

[…]Nearly one-third of couples enter into cohabitation with a child from a previous relationship, as do half of those cohabitating for six years or longer. Children living with a parent and unmarried partner (live-in boyfriend) have 20 times the risk of sexual abuse and eight times the risk of all maltreatment compared to children living with married biological parents.  Even if the couple marries, stepchildren have over eight times the risk of sexual abuse and triple the overall risk of abuse of neglect. Girls living with a stepparent had 60 percent higher risk of being raped than girls living with their biological parents.

Depression:

Women in cohabiting relationships have more depression than married women, and poorer responsiveness to their children’s emotional needs.  Children whose mothers are depressed have increased cortisol responses to stress (which may explain their increased hypertension in adulthood). Children with unmarried mothers are half as likely to be breastfed, leading to higher rates of asthma, pneumonia, ear and intestinal infections, diabetes, obesity, and lower intelligence.

Please believe me when I say that you should click through to the Stream and read the entire article.

So what do I want to say about this in my 500 words? Well, I want to say that the cohabitation issue is a good opportunity for us to reason about whether there should be any rules around sexuality and relationships.

Our culture is absolutely poisoned right now with a kind of feelings-oriented non-judgmentalism that prevents debate. Everything has been reduced to people feeling “offended” and using the power of government to stifle debate. Nowhere is this more evident than on the university campus, which is the source of the problem. This hyper-tolerance and emotional non-judgmentalism leaves people open to making poor decisions that cause self-destruction and harm to others. As a result, young people are blindly accepting a script for sexuality and relationships from the culture, e.g. – Hollywood, celebrities, and ideologically-driven academics. A script made by professional story-tellers insulated from the consequences of their ideas.

As Christians, we seem to have so much trouble talking to young people about rules around sexuality and relationships. So many young people think that premarital sex is benign. That cohabitation is no big deal. And that redefining marriage cannot be opposed. Christian parents and pastors are not preparing themselves to discuss these things with young people. If there is a battle of ideas, and one side shows up with a bunch of feelings and lies, that side still wins – if the other side doesn’t show up at all. Don’t be so focused on your career and your own self that you fail your children by failing to discuss and debate with them about the issues. Don’t assume that just because your children look OK on the surface that there are not serious questions underneath.

There is so much I could say about this problem of talking to young people. As I argued in a previous post, I truly believe that apologists should not neglect these social / cultural / fiscal issues. We have to study them and know how to argue for our values using secular arguments and evidence, such as you see in the study above. Once young people have decided that Christian teachings on sexuality (e.g. – chastity, courting) are primitive and irrational, or worse, then getting them to accept Christianity becomes that much harder. And that goes double for marriage. If they think that cohabitation, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage and gay adoption are opposed for no other reason than blind prejudice or even hatred, then we’ve lost before we even begin to make our first philosophical argument. We have to use a combined arms approach.

Let’s attack! Now is the time!

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

Are you ready for marriage? 10 questions to find out how prepared you are

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

Would you like your marriage to be long-lasting and fulfilling? Well, check out the questions below and see if you are ready for life-long wedded bliss.

1. Are you opposed to no-fault divorce laws?

No-fault divorce laws allow one spouse to leave the marriage at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. If you support no-fault divorce, then your view of marriage is that it’s something to be entered into lightly, because it can be exited easily. You’ll be walking down the aisle thinking “oh well, if it doesn’t work out, I can always get a divorce”. If you oppose no-fault divorce laws, then your view of marriage is that there is no escape hatch. You’ll probably be a lot more careful about getting married. Since you are convinced that marriage is built to last forever, you’ll have a courtship of at least 6 months, and involve both sets of parents in the process. If you put commitment above happiness, you’re ready for marriage.

2. Are you opposed to abortion laws?

Abortion laws basically make it easy for two people to have recreational sex, and then get rid of any complications that result quickly and easily. This way, both the people that created the effect can escape the responsibility for what they did, and keep right on pursuing their goals and dreams. If you support abortion laws, you’re really saying that you can engage in recreational sex with people who are unwilling to accept responsibility for any children that result. If you are pro-life, then you’re saying that people should be careful about having sex, and be ready to take responsibility for a child, should one appear. Being responsible is good preparation for marriage.

3. Are you supportive of daycare for young kids?

Daycare services are essential for couples who need both the father and the mother to be working. The advantage of both parents working is that you can afford lots of shiny new stuff – like vacations, boats, shoes and handbags. Studies show that children don’t die during daycare, although if you put a child in daycare, there will be effects on the child’s behavior, such as higher anxiety and aggression. If you oppose daycare, you’re putting the needs of your children above your need for shiny stuff. Putting the needs of children first is a sign that you are ready for the self-sacrifice that marriage requires.

4. Are you in favor of smaller government?

If you’re in favor of smaller government, then you would rather keep taxes low so that more money stays in the family. If you support bigger government, then you think that government knows how to spend your money better than you and your spouse do. Additionally, government usually likes to spend more money than they take in. For example, in the last 8 years, we’ve added $10 trillion dollars to the debt, which is now $18.5 trillion. If you oppose higher taxes and bigger government, then you want government to pass on less debt to your children. Putting your kids’ financial well-being over your own is pro-marriage.

5. Are you in favor of school choice?

If you’re opposed to school choice, then you think that government should decide which schools your children will attend. School choice laws allow parents to give money to the schools they think are best for the children. If a school has excellent teachers and teaches students skills that they can use in their professional lives, then parents can choose that school. Schools have to compete to provide higher quality to parents, for lower cost. If you support giving parents more choice, then you put the needs of children – especially poor, minority children – above the needs of education administrators and teacher unions. Putting kids fist is pro-marriage.

6. Are you in favor of premarital sex?

Premarital sex is really fun (so I’m told). You can have sex with people who are just really attractive, even if these people have lousy character. Your friends will be impressed, and you’ll feel more attractive – like you were climbing a ladder of attractiveness with each new partner. If you combine sex with being drunk, then you can’t remember anything after. And you can’t feel guilty if the booze made you do it, right? On the other hand, if you present yourself to your spouse as a virgin, you are telling them that you have self-control, that you take sex as communication rather than recreation, and that they can trust you to be faithful by keeping sex inside the marriage. Trust is important for a good marriage.

7. Are you in favor of welfare for single mothers?

Sometimes, women find themselves pregnant before they are married. If you think that giving taxpayer money to women who have babies before they have husbands is a good idea, then you are rewarding behavior that creates fatherless children. Raising a child without a father causes serious behavioral problems. Boys tend to become more violent, and are more likely to commit crimes. Girls tend to engage in sex at earlier ages. If you oppose encouraging fatherlessness with welfare, you want women to get married before they have kids. Taking the needs of children seriously is pro-marriage.

8. Are you in favor of same-sex marriage?

When a man and a man get married and acquire children, those children will not be raised with their birth mother. Similarly with lesbians, the children will not grow up with their birth father. Studies show that children suffer from not being raised by their biological parents. For example, children of same-sex parents have lower graduation rates than children raised by heterosexual couples. If you think that children have a right to a stable relationship with their biological mother and father, then you place a higher value on the needs of children as opposed to the needs of adults. That’s a good sign you’re ready for marriage.

9. Are you in favor of radical feminism?

This one comes to us from Lindsay, who blogs at Lindsay’s Logic. She says that opposing radical feminism “shows that you do not think the purpose of marriage is to make women happy, but to work as a team to serve God and raise good children.” Indeed. Marriage doesn’t work if the woman approaches it as an accessory. Marriage is about a man and a woman sacrificing their own interests and compromising in order to work together as a team. Husbands and children have needs that women should care about. Feminism teaches women that husbands and children are less important than their careers, hobbies and interests. Feminism is anti-marriage.

10. Are you responsible with earning, budgeting and saving money?

This one comes to us from Bob P. He says that marriages work better when both spouses are “committed to financial planning, budgeting and a renunciation of debt to support a lifestyle. Disagreement about financial issues is one of the greatest causes of marital stress.” If you’re able to choose a college major or a trade that you don’t like, but that pays well, that’s a positive. If you’re able to string together jobs so that your resume is gap-less, that’s a positive. If you’re able to save money even though it means you’re having less fun, that’s a positive. If you’re able to give away money to others to support them, that means you’re able to sacrifice your interests for the benefit of others. That’s pro-marriage.

Well, how did you do? Leave your ideas for more policies and points of view that are marriage-friendly in the comments.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , ,

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