Peaceful Parenting Part 23

Stefan Molyneux explores the silent devastation of child neglect in "The Soul Denied and Rejected," emphasizing the urgent need for prevention strategies to address its profound impact on children.

2024, Stefan Molyneux

Brief Summary
Stefan Molyneux discusses the profound impact of neglect on children in "The Soul Denied and Rejected." The episode highlights neglect as a silent drought eroding a child's soul, with disturbing statistics on child maltreatment and neglect. It explores the devastating consequences of neglect, including child fatalities and emotional well-being implications such as self-harm and increased suicide risk. The systemic impact on children's development, including decreased emotion regulation and negative health outcomes, is also discussed. Additionally, the episode sheds light on the harrowing consequences of child sexual abuse, emphasizing the urgent need for prevention strategies. The long-lasting effects of adverse childhood experiences, brain alterations due to child abuse, and the interplay of brain regions in adolescents exposed to abuse are explored, underlining the critical need for awareness, prevention, and support for those impacted by childhood adversity.

0:00 The Insidious Trauma of Neglect
3:48 Global Perspectives on Neglect
14:10 Confronting Child Sexual Abuse
14:54 Understanding the Prevalence
20:14 Sexual Abuse – The Australian Data
23:36 The Unspoken Truth
29:48 Child Abuse and Early-Onset Menstruation
30:22 Child Abuse and Criminality
34:41 The Cognitive Repercussions of Spanking
38:07 Maternal ACEs and Infant Negative Emotionality
39:35 Brain Alterations and Moral Development
40:45 The Interplay of Emotion Regulation in Adolescents
45:35 The Impact on Decision-Making and Reasoning

Long Summary
Peaceful Parenting by Stéphane Molyneux, Part 23 The Soul Denied and Rejected delves into the profound impact of neglect on children, highlighting neglect as a silent drought that erodes a child's soul, leading to crippling effects. Disturbing statistics from the American Society for the Positive Care of Children reveal the prevalence of child maltreatment and neglect, emphasizing the devastating consequences of neglect, which is the most common form of abuse. The episode explores the heartbreaking reality of child fatalities due to abuse and neglect, underscoring the vulnerability of young children and the far-reaching effects of neglect across various demographic groups.

The conversation shifts to the detrimental effects of neglect on emotional well-being, with studies showing a correlation between childhood neglect and self-harm, personality functioning impairments, and increased risk of suicide. The discussion further explores the systemic impact of neglect on children's development, including decreased emotion regulation and increased risk of negative health outcomes such as depressive disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.

The podcast episode also delves into the harrowing consequences of child sexual abuse, shedding light on the prevalence and lasting emotional damage experienced by survivors. Shocking statistics on child sexual abuse victims and perpetrators underscore the urgent need for addressing this issue with clarity and determination. The long-term impacts of child sexual abuse on mental health, substance abuse, criminal behavior, and relationship difficulties are highlighted, emphasizing the urgent need for prevention and intervention strategies.

The episode delves into the profound implications of adverse childhood experiences, including the reshaping of neural pathways due to child abuse, which can inhibit moral reasoning and development. The discussion explores the impact of maternal adverse childhood experiences on infant brain development and emotional regulation, emphasizing the intergenerational effects of trauma. The conversation also touches on the relationship between brain alterations, cognitive development, and the eradication of spanking as a parenting practice to promote healthy brain development.

Lastly, the podcast episode delves into the intricate interplay between brain regions associated with emotional processing, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, in adolescents exposed to child abuse. The discussion highlights the altered brain connectivity patterns and increased risk of psychopathology associated with abuse exposure, underscoring the long-term impact of childhood trauma on emotional regulation and mental health outcomes. Through a comprehensive exploration of neglect, child sexual abuse, brain alterations, and intergenerational trauma, the episode emphasizes the critical need for awareness, prevention, and support for those impacted by childhood adversity.

The Insidious Trauma of Neglect
[0:00]Peaceful Parenting by Stéphane Molyneux, Part 23 The Soul Denied and Rejected The Insidious Trauma of Neglect, If physical abuse is the storm that rages, shaking the foundations of a child's world, then neglect is the silent drought, slowly eroding the very soil from which they grow. It's not just the brutality done to the body, but the voids left in the soul that can cripple the child. The rates of child maltreatment and neglect are deeply disturbing. The American Society for the Positive Care of Children has gathered some heartbreaking statistics for the U.S. Four million child maltreatment referral reports received in 2021. Child abuse reports involved 7.2 million children. 90.6% of victims are maltreated by one or both parents. Only 2.9 million children received prevention and post-response services.
[1:19]156,576 children received foster care services. Neglect is by far the most common form of abuse. Three-fourths of victims are neglected, 16% are physically abused, 10% are sexually abused and 0.2% are sex trafficked.
[1:48]Annual estimate, 1,820 children died from abuse and neglect in 2021. Five children die every day from child abuse. 66.2% of all child fatalities were younger than three years old. 80.3% of child fatalities involve at least one parent. Of the children who died, 77.7% suffered child neglect. Of the children who died, 42.8% suffered physical abuse either exclusively or in combination with another maltreatment type. Boys had a higher child fatality rate than girls 3.01 boys and 2.15 girls per 100,000, It is estimated that between 50 to 60% of maltreatment fatalities are not recorded on death certificates.
[2:57]The youngest children are the most vulnerable vulnerable. Children in the first year of their life are 15% of all victims, and more than a quarter of child maltreatment victims are no more than two years old. Child abuse crosses all socio-economic and educational levels, religions, and ethnic and cultural groups. Girls are victimized at a higher rate than boys. American Indian Indian or Alaska Native children have the highest rate of victimization in the population of the same race or ethnicity, while African American children have the second highest rate of the same race or ethnicity.
Global Perspectives on Neglect
[3:49]A 2018 systematic review found that neglect was most commonly observed in Africa – girls 41.8%, boys 39.1% –, and South America – girls 54.8%, boys 56.7%. But these rates were calculated from a limited number of studies. In the continents with more extensive research, the median rates vary between girls – 40.5% – and boys, 16.6% in North America, while they were similar in Asia, girls 26.3%, boys 23.8%. Neglect is a multifaceted beast. Emotional neglect, for example, refers to the absence of nurturing, affection, and comfort. A child growing up in such an environment learns to mute their emotional responses, often feeling invisible or unimportant. Children are struggling, and almost no one is there to help them.
[4:58]A recent study showed that individuals with a history of self-harm reported more childhood abuse and neglect, effect size equals 139%, with a 0.1% chance the results were due to random variation, and greater impairments in personality functioning, Affect size equals 164%, with a 0.1% chance the results were due to random variation, than the rest of the population. A 2023 article from reports that suicides among the youngest teenagers had been rising for years before the pandemic. From 2008 to 2018, the suicide rate among 13 and 14-year-olds across the country saw a significant increase, more than doubling. The rate rose from about two fatalities per 100,000 teenagers in 2008 to five per 100,000 a decade later. Furthermore, according to Dr. Sarah Wood, a senior researcher and pediatrics professor at Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine, suicide has emerged as the primary cause of mortality among 13 and 14-year-olds in the United States. Now, this is not research claiming that neglect is the cause or correlation of this increase in suicide, but I suspect that it certainly contributes.
[6:24]A 2021 essay followed up and extended on earlier research and data on school and teen suicide. These reviews have consistently shown that during summer months, when children are not at school, youth suicide drops dramatically. Why don't they have someone in their life that they can trust to help? Someone who is connected with and interested in them. It is a parent's responsibility to know what is going on in a child's life. Where did they get the message that the world is better off without them, or that life will only ever be net suffering?
[7:14]A 2020 meta-analytic review of maltreatment and neglect found that they showed a significant relationship with decreased emotion regulation, correlation of approximately minus 24%, and increased emotion dysregulation, correlation of approximately 28%, at the domain level. At the strategy level, maltreatment was significantly associated with increased avoidance, correlation of approximately 25%, emotional suppression, correlation of approximately 24%, and emotional expression, correlation of approximately 25%. Medical and emotional neglect, on the other hand, have tangible and immediate consequences. Children denied access to medical care or education are stripped of their fundamental rights. They are held back, not by chains, but by circumstances and the choices of those meant to protect them. A 2012 systematic review and meta-analysis of 124 studies found significant connections were observed between physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, and various negative health outcomes.
[8:30]Depressive disorders. Physical abuse, 54% higher risk. Emotional abuse, 206% higher risk. Neglect, 111% higher risk. Drug use. Physical abuse, 92% higher risk. Emotional abuse, 41% higher risk. Neglect, 36% higher risk. Suicide attempts. Physical abuse, 240% higher risk. Emotional abuse, 237% higher risk. Neglect, 95%. Higher risk. Sexually transmitted infections and risky sexual behavior. Physical abuse, 78% higher risk. Emotional abuse, 75% higher risk. Neglect, 57% higher risk.
[9:32]But perhaps the most sinister form of neglect is the deprivation of basic care, food, shelter, and safety. Such a child grows up in an environment of perpetual scarcity, or was waiting for the other shoe to drop. What's central to the discourse and the understanding of neglect is that it's often the sins of omission, not just commission, that wreak the most havoc. By neglecting children's needs, we're not just depriving them of resources, we're denying them a sense of belonging, of safety, security, and of self-worth. We cannot survive without touch.
[10:17]Communication plays an integral role in our world permeating every aspect of society our existence thrives in a web of rapidly exchanged information and incessant social connections to emphasize this consider the chilling account of an experiment conducted by Frederick II. The Experiment on Language Isolation Frederick II, remembered as the Holy Roman Emperor, reigned during the medieval period 1194 to 1250. His unintended revelation concerning the language isolation experiment is profound in the annals of communication research. In the 13th century, Frederick became curious about humanity's inherent language. To probe this, he orchestrated an experiment involving several infants. The objective was to raise these infants without any form of human interaction, no talking, touching, or emotional engagement. By ensuring such an isolated environment, Frederick aimed to uncover the primordial language he believed was bestowed upon humans by God.
[11:27]These infants received basic care. They were nourished and cleaned, but their caregivers were strictly instructed to maintain emotional and verbal detachment. This isolation was a result of Frederick's quest to unearth the language of Adam and Eve. However, the outcome of this three-year experiment was tragic. All the infants perished. Though Frederick embarked on this investigation with high hopes of revealing an innate language, the outcome underscored a profound realization. Humans are not just biological entities. We are inherently social. The absence of social connections and interactions is detrimental to our survival. This harrowing experiment highlighted the paramount importance of communication. Without it, even the basic will to live can wane. as evidenced by the heart-breaking fate of the infants.
[12:34]An Italian historian from 1248, Salimbenne di Adam, noted with a sense of empirical curiosity they couldn't survive without affection. The lack of physical touch was lethal for these infants. Modern medicine calls this phenomenon failure to thrive. Human babies sometimes die if they are not touched. In the 19th century, many institutionalized infants in the United States died of marasmus, wasting away, due to the lack of touch and affection. One study found that children who were raised in orphanages had much higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and another found that infants deprived of touch have abnormal levels of hormones that regulate social behavior. Another study showed that the amount a baby is held and touched can leave lasting measurable effects, not just on behavior or growth, but all the way down to the molecular level of the DNA. Those changes, the scientists speculate, could have negative effects on the way the child grows and develops.
[13:50]Infants who experience more physical contact with caregivers show increased mental development in the first six months of life compared to those who receive limited physical interaction. This improved cognitive development has been measured as lasting even after eight years.
Confronting Child Sexual Abuse
[14:11]The gravest evil, confronting child sexual abuse and its impact, the unspoken truth. Few topics are as appalling and yet as important as child sexual abuse. It is a scourge on humanity hidden away in dark corners whispered about, but rarely confronted with the clarity and determination it so desperately needs. For those dedicated to the principles of peaceful parenting, addressing this is not just an option, it's an absolute responsibility.
Understanding the Prevalence
[14:55]Understanding the Prevalence How common is the sexual abuse of children? Let's look at US data. There are more than 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America. One in three girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. One in five boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. One in five children are solicited sexually while on the Internet before the age of 18. 30% of sexual abuse is never reported Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults including assaults on adults occur to children aged 17 and under, 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way, Approximately 20% of the victims of sexual abuse are under age 8. 95% of sexual abuse is preventable through education.
[16:12]38% of the sexual abusers of boys are female. There is worse lasting emotional damage when a child's sexual abuse started before the age of six and lasted for several years. Among child and teen victims of sexual abuse, there is a 42% increased chance of suicidal thoughts during adolescence. More than 90% of individuals with a developmental delay or disability will be sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime, There are nearly half a million registered sex offenders in the US 80,000 to 100,000 of them are missing, A typical pedophile will commit 117 sexual crimes in a lifetime. 60% of black women report having been sexually assaulted by a black man before they turned 18.
[17:25]Prevalence of victims One of the most horrifying aspects of this kind of abuse is how many victims the typical sexual abuser has molested. From the book Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders by Anne C. Salter. Results stunned the professional community. 232 child molesters admitted to attempting more than 55,000 incidents of molestation. They claimed to have been successful in 38,000 incidents and reported they had more than 17,000 total victims. All this from only 232 men. Men who molested out-of-home female children averaged 20 victims. Although there were fewer of them, men who molested out-of-home male children were even more active than molesters of female children averaging 150 victims each. Despite the astounding figures, most of these offenses have never been detected. In fact, Abel computed the chances of being caught for a sexual offense at 3%. Crime pays, it seems, and sexual crime pays particularly well.
[18:48]Dr. Abel also analyzed the data for all kinds of sex offenses, including exhibitionism, voyeurism, and adult rape, as well as child molestation. This larger sample of 561 offenders admitted to more than 291,000 sexual offenses of all kinds and more than 195,000 victims.
[19:14]But how do we know these men aren't lying, bragging about things that never happened? Unfortunately, studies of victims confirm what the offenders say. In a classic study of adult women in the general population, Dr. Diana Russell found, and later research by Dr. Gail Wyatt and others confirmed, that rates of child sexual abuse are extraordinarily high. 28% of Russell's sample of women had been molested as children under the age of 14. 38% if the 14 through 17-year-olds are included. These were physical contact offenses only, exhibitionism was not counted, and they excluded non-violent sexual contact between peers. Nonetheless, only 5% of the child's sexual abuse revealed to these researchers had ever been reported to the authorities.
Sexual Abuse – The Australian Data
[20:14]Sexual Abuse – The Australian Data.
[20:20]To be effective in our fight against child sexual abuse, we must first recognize its prevalence. A 2023 Australian maltreatment survey found that child sexual abuse affected 28.5% of Australians. It was observed that girls faced twice the incidence rate of boys, 37.3% compared to 18.8% for boys. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a rare event, it is alarmingly common. Surveys and research consistently highlight that a significant percentage of individuals experience some form of sexual abuse during their childhood. The perpetrators, shockingly, are often those close to the child, family members, family friends, or those in positions of trust. From Bravehearts, an Australian child protection organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse. ACMS, the Australian Child Maltreatment Study, revealed 23.7% experienced contact child sexual abuse, 18.1% experienced non-contact, and 8.7% endured forced sex. Survey 12-15% of Australian women reported childhood sexual violence.
[21:47]Australian survey, 11% women, 5% men, sexually abused before age 15. Australian birth cohort, 19.3% males, 30.6% females, self-reported abuse at 21. Nordic countries review, boys 3 to 23%, girls 11 to 36% child sexual abuse. Japanese study, females 10.4% to 60.7% contact, 1.3% to 8.3% penetrative abuse. UK research, 7.2% 11-17 year olds, 18.6% 18-24 year olds, females sexually victimized. Australian Studies 4.8% Males 7-12% Females Penetrative Abuse 12-16% Males 23-36% Females Non-Penetrative Abuse, Australian Women 45% Experienced Unwanted Sexual Incidents by Age 16, Studies Most Men Below 10% Women, 10-20% child sexual abuse prevalence.
[23:15]International research, 5-10% girls, up to 5% boys experience penetrative abuse, more exposed to any type of abuse. Indigenous Australian children have higher child protection involvement and child sexual abuse rates.
The Unspoken Truth
[23:36]From Darkness to Light, an organization dedicated to helping adults prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse through awareness, education, and stigma reduction. Roughly 10% of children will experience sexual abuse prior to reaching the age of 18, as indicated by various sources. The statistics show that around 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys will unfortunately encounter sexual abuse before turning 18. As many as 25% of child sexual abuse incidents identified by professionals not working specifically in child protection services are not reported, despite a mandated reporting law that requires it. As adults, child sexual abuse victims were almost twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense, as the general population. 20.4% vs. 10.7%. 24-year-old women, who were sexually abused as children, were four times more likely than their non-abused peers to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. 45% of pregnant teens report a history of childhood sexual abuse.
[24:58]The grave ramifications. Childhood sexual abuse is not just a traumatic event in a child's life. It's a seed that, when planted, can sprout into a multitude of psychological, emotional, and physical issues as the child grows. Here's the bitter pill of reality. Children are not equipped to process, understand, or cope with such traumatic experiences. When they're exposed to such abuse, it disrupts their natural developmental process.
[25:33]Emotional, and psychological impact. Victims of child sexual abuse often grapple with feelings of guilt, shame, and confusion. They may develop depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They can become withdrawn, fearful, and develop a distorted sense of self-worth. From the National Center for Victims of Crime. In the U.S., 16% of 14-17-year-olds are sexually victimized within a given year. Lifetime, 28% of U.S. 14-17-year-olds experience sexual victimization.
[26:18]CSA vulnerability, ages 7-13. 3 out of 4 adolescents are sexually assaulted by familiar individuals. 63% of abused women report post-14 rape Consistent findings in 2000, 2002, 2005, Prolonged abuse yields low self-esteem, distrust, suicidal tendencies, Higher abuse risk Non-intact families Parental discord Divorce domestic violence. 5 to 15% of children with evidence of penetration show genital injuries.
[27:09]Child sexual abuse includes non-contact forms exposure, voyeurism, child porn. Abused males 5 times teen pregnancy likelihood 3 times multiple partners Two times unprotected sex risk.
[27:33]Longer-term impacts of childhood sexual abuse. The immediate physical harm is evident, but the long-term impacts, such as the heightened risk for substance abuse, self-harming behaviors, and even suicidal tendencies, can't be ignored. Increased drug and alcohol risk. ACMS reveals two times higher cannabis dependence risk for child sexual abuse survivors. Systematic review of 47 articles establishes clear links between child sexual abuse and later substance use problems. Child sexual abuse associated with heavy drinking, hazardous drinking, marijuana use, illicit drugs, even when controlling for emotional factors. A New Zealand Birth Cohort study finds sexual abuse before 16 is linked to adverse outcomes at 30, including substance dependence, mental health issues, low self-esteem. Victims of childhood sexual abuse are more prone to accidental fatal overdoses, a significantly higher risk compared to the general population.
[28:55]A longitudinal study indicates a strong connection between childhood sexual abuse and various criminal behaviors, with re-victimization increasing the likelihood of offending. A multi-country study identifies female childhood sexual abuse as the most influential predictor of criminal behavior in young adults. The link is less pronounced in males, possibly due to the severity of the abuse. Relationship Difficulties Trust, a foundational element in any relationship, becomes an elusive concept for many abuse survivors. Intimacy can be challenging and interpersonal relationships can often be riddled with fear and insecurities.
Child Abuse and Early-Onset Menstruation
[29:48]Child abuse, and early-onset menstruation. After analyzing information on nearly 69,000 women, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found those sexually abused during their childhoods were 49% more likely to have their first period before age 11 than women who were not abused. Women who suffered severe physical abuse had a 50% increased risk for starting their menstrual cycles late or after age 15.
Child Abuse and Criminality
[30:22]Child abuse and criminality. We know that higher adverse childhood experiences tend to increase criminality. How does this look from the inside of a prison cell? Is there a relationship between being the victim of child abuse, especially sexual abuse, and ending up in prison. A 2012 study on the ACEs of incarcerated individuals found Respondent's trauma experience. Male trauma experience differs by trauma type and age of exposure. More physical trauma than sexual trauma was reported across age groups. Trauma exposure rates were highest before age 18. White and other racial groups experienced more trauma before age 18 compared to black inmates, Hispanic inmates Physical trauma rates were similar to black inmates Sexual trauma exposure rates were similar to white and other racial groups.
[31:33]Table 1 Summary Trauma experienced by incarcerated men Male, all Physical trauma before 18, 44.7%, Physical trauma 18 plus, 31.5% Sexual trauma before 18, 10.9% Sexual trauma 18 plus, 4.5%, White Physical trauma less than 18, 52.4% Physical trauma, 18 plus, 36.4%. Sexual trauma before 18, 14.5%. Sexual trauma, 18 plus, 3.9%. Black.
[32:18]Physical trauma, less than 18, 43.6%. Physical trauma, 18 plus, 31%. Sexual trauma, less than 18, 8.5%. Sexual trauma, 18+, 3.8% Hispanic Physical trauma, less than 18, 40% Physical trauma, 18+, 28.1%, Sexual trauma, less than 18, 12.1% Sexual trauma, 18+, 5.4% Other Physical trauma, less than 18, 51.9% Physical trauma, 18 plus, 35.7%. Sexual trauma, less than 18, 15.9%. Sexual trauma, 18 plus, 8.1%. We will talk in more detail later about the effects of child abuse on specific forms of criminality.
[33:21]Brain alterations. How child abuse reshapes neural pathways. We often think of the brain as a static organ, solidified in its form and function after a certain age. However, as the science of neuroplasticity shows, our brains are dynamic and moldable throughout our lives. The environments we're exposed to, especially during our tender formative years, can drastically shape our neural structures and functions. Tragically, child abuse, of all forms, wields the power to deform these critical networks in young minds. Quote, For the infant and young child, attachment relationships are the major environmental factors that shape the development of the brain during its period of maximal growth. Attachment establishes an interpersonal relationship that helps the immature brain use the mature functions of the parent's brain to organize its own processes. Dan Siegel, The Developing Mind.
[34:26]The pursuit of intelligence, that evergreen aspiration of parents, remains intertwined with the choices we make in child-rearing. Murray Strauss' groundbreaking research drives this point home, underscoring a sobering truth.
The Cognitive Repercussions of Spanking
[34:42]Children who experience spanking in the U.S. are left to grapple with the cognitive repercussions, reflecting lower IQs four years on. Indeed, a child aged between 2 and 4 who avoids the hand of corporal punishment may reap an intellectual advantage of 5 IQ points over their spanked counterparts. This gap narrows to 2.8 points for children aged 5 to 9, but the message remains clear. As Strauss asserts, it's crucial, now more than ever, for professionals in the realm of psychology to champion the eradication of spanking from our parenting arsenal. Moreover, this isn't just about individual households, but should stimulate a larger movement prompting the United States to prioritize this issue as a public health concern and to seriously contemplate federal no-spanking legislation. The future intelligence and well-being of our children, our most treasured assets, hangs in the balance.
[35:46]Maternal Adverse Childhood Experiences An Infant Subcortical Brain Volume 2022, Research Background Adverse childhood experiences, ACEs, have negative impacts on health and disease susceptibility. ACEs may have intergenerational effects from mother to child, but the exact mechanisms remain unclear.
[36:11]The study looked at the relationship between maternal ACEs, neonatal brain development, particularly the amygdala and hippocampus, and infant negative emotionality at six months of age. Methods involved 85 mother-infant pairs, 44 female infants, in a longitudinal study. Maternal ACEs were evaluated using the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire, ACEQ. Neonatal hippocampal and amygdala volume was measured using a structural MRI. Infant negative emotionality was determined at six months with the Infant Behavior Questionnaire, IPQ. Results. Maternal ACEs had a significant relation with bilateral amygdala volume. Higher maternal ACEs correlated with smaller left amygdala volume. For every standard unit increase in maternal ACEs, the left amygdala volume decreased by 22% of its standard deviation. Right amygdala volume. For every standard unit increase in maternal ACEs, the right amygdala volume decreases by 16.7% of its standard deviation.
[37:34]No significant link was found between maternal ACEs and bilateral hippocampal volume. Both high maternal ACEs and smaller left amygdala volume were associated with increased infant negative emotionality at 6 months. Thanks. Maternal ACEs effect. For every standard deviation increase in maternal ACEs, there was a 23.2% standard deviation increase in infant negative emotionality at 6 months.
Maternal ACEs and Infant Negative Emotionality
[38:08]Left amygdala volume effect. For every standard deviation decrease in the left amygdala volume, there was a 33.7% standard deviation increase in infant negative emotionality at 6 months.
[38:24]However, there was no statistically significant mediation of this effect. In simpler terms, both high maternal childhood adversities and smaller left amygdala volume are linked to more negative emotions in infants. However, the left amygdala's volume doesn't act as a middleman, explaining the effect of maternal adversities on the infant's emotions. The amygdala, often termed the emotion center of the brain, is particularly sensitive to traumatic experiences in childhood. Children who've experienced abuse tend to have an overactive and enlarged amygdala, making them hyper-responsive to threats, real or perceived. This heightened state of alertness and sensitivity is a defense mechanism, an adaptation to their abusive environment, where they had to be constantly on guard. But while it might be a survival tool in a harmful environment, it becomes a curse in a normal one, rendering them more susceptible to anxiety disorders and irrational fears. We delve into this in a later chapter.
Brain Alterations and Moral Development
[39:35]Damage to the brain inhibits moral reasoning and development. Quote. The long-term consequences of early prefrontal cortex lesions occurring before 16 months were investigated in two adults. As is the case when such damage occurs in adulthood, the two early-onset patients had severely impaired social behavior despite normal basic cognitive abilities and showed insensitivity to future consequences of decisions, defective autonomic responses to punishment contingencies, and failure to respond to behavioral interventions. Unlike adult-onset patients, however, the two patients had defective social and moral reasoning, suggesting that the acquisition of complex social conventions and moral rules had been impaired. Thus, early-onset prefrontal damage resulted in a syndrome resembling psychopathy. From impairment of social and moral behavior Behavior Related to Early Damage in Human Prefrontal Cortex, 2004.
The Interplay of Emotion Regulation in Adolescents
[40:45]Within the context of adverse childhood experiences, a 2019 study delved into the intricate interplay between brain regions central to emotion regulation, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, VMPFC, and the amygdala. This neural network holds significant implications for emotional processing in individuals across the lifespan. span. The investigation focused on adolescents, where they conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging during an emotion regulation task involving negative and neutral image viewing. Notably, they uncovered that a more negative functional connectivity between the VMPFC and amygdala emerged during the observation of negative images as opposed to neutral ones. Interestingly, adolescence with histories of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse demonstrated even more negative functional connectivity between these regions, correlating with the severity of the abuse received.
[41:51]This distinctive neural pattern was further linked to higher levels of concurrent and future externalizing psychopathology. This increased negative connectivity in the VMPFC amygdala network during passive exposure to negative stimuli could signify a disengagement of regulatory processes from the VMPFC when confronted with intense amygdala reactivity This phenomenon might stem from heightened threat assessments in children exposed to early hostile environments, Although potentially adaptive in the short term this pattern could predispose adolescence to heightened psychopathology risk in later stages of life. From the study Affect Ratings Negative images were rated as more emotionally intense than neutral images.
[42:47]Adolescents exposed to child abuse reported an average effect 26% higher than controls across conditions. Ball's Response The BOLS response is utilized to map brain activity by detecting these changes in blood oxygenation. In the look-negative vs. look-neutral contrast, several regions in the salience network bilateral amygdala, thalamus, anterior insula, putamen, and VMPFC showed greater activity with a specific focus on the bilateral putamen, thalamus, amygdala, and anterior insula. Maltreated adolescence exhibited greater activation than controls in several of these areas during the negative versus neutral contrast.
[43:36]Task-Related Functional Connectivity During Emotional Processing, Task-Related Functional Connectivity During Emotional Processing refers to a specific aspect of the study's findings that involve analyzing how different brain regions communicate and coordinate their activity when individuals are processing emotional stimuli. Task-Related Functional Connectivity to the Left Amygdala was more strongly negative during trials involving negative stimuli compared to neutral stimuli in the right VMPFC, including MOFC and SGACC, there were no significant clusters of task-related functional connectivity to the right amygdala. Abuse exposure was associated with more negative task-related functional connectivity of the left amygdala with both VMPFC clusters, MOFC and SGACC, compared to control participants.
[44:31]Task-related functional connectivity and psychopathology. Exposure to abuse and abuse severity were associated with increased internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, both concurrently and two years after the scan. More negative task-related functional connectivity of the left amygdala with both MOFC and SGACC was associated with higher levels of concurrent externalizing psychopathology. Functional connectivity between the left amygdala and MOFC was associated with concurrent internalizing symptoms, Functional connectivity between the left amygdala and SGACC predicted externalizing psychopathology two years later after controlling for baseline externalizing symptoms, But the repercussions don't stop there The prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for decision-making impulse control, and reasoning, also bears the brunt of abuse.
The Impact on Decision-Making and Reasoning
[45:35]In abused children, this region tends to be underdeveloped, making them less capable of regulating their emotions or responding rationally to challenging situations.

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May 2024

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