Essay // Developmental Psychology: The 3 Major Theories of Childhood Development

TheoriesOfDevelopment

Source: An Introduction to Developmental Psychology by Slater & Bremner (Blackwell:Oxford, 2nd Edn, 2011)

THE 3 MAJOR THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT

In 1984, Nicholas Humphrey described us as “nature’s psychologists’” or homo psychologicus. What he meant was that as intelligent social beings, we tend to use our knowledge of our own thoughts and feelings – “introspection” – as a guide for understanding how others are likely to think, feel and hence, behave. He also argued that we are conscious [i.e. we have self-awareness] precisely because such an attribute is useful in the process of understanding others and having a successful social existence – consciousness is a biological adaptation that enables us to perform introspective psychology. Today, we are confident in the knowledge that the process of understanding others’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour is an ability that develops through childhood and most likely throughout our lives; and according to the greatest child psychologist of all time, Jean Piaget, a crucial phase of this process occurs in middle childhood.

Developmental psychology can be characterised as the field that attempts to understand and explain the changes that happen over time in the thought, behaviour, reasoning and functioning of a person due to biological, individual and environmental influences. Developmental psychologists study children’s development, and the development of human behaviour across the organism’s lifetime from a variety of different perspectives. Hence, if we are studying different areas of development, different theoretical perspectives will be fundamental and may influence the ways psychologists and scholars think about and study development.

Through the systematic collection of knowledge and experiments, we can develop a greater understanding and awareness of ourselves than would otherwise be possible.

 

Focussing on changes with time

The new born infant is a helpless creature, with communications skills that are limited along with few abilities. By 18 – 24 months, the end of the period of infancy – this scenario changes. The child has now formed relationships with others, has gained knowledge about the aspects of the physical world, and is about to undergo a vocabulary explosion as language development leaps ahead. At the time of adolescence, the child has turned into a mature, thinking individual actively striving to come to terms with a fast changing and complex society.

The important contribution to development, is maturation and the changes resulting from experience that intervene between the different ages and stages of childhood: the term maturation refers to those aspects of development that are primarily under genetic control, and which are relatively uninfluenced by the environment. An example would be puberty, and although its onset can be affected by environmental factors such as diet, the changes that occur are genetically determined.

 

Development Observed

The biologist, Charles Darwin, notable for his theory of evolution, made one of the earliest contributions to our understanding of child psychology in his article “A biographical sketch of an infant” (1877), which was based on observations of his own son’s development. By the early 20th century, most of our understanding of psychological development was not based on scientific methodology as much was still based on anecdotes and opinions of qualitative analysis, a method that strict empiricists have never managed to grasp or like. Nevertheless, knowledge was still being organised through both observation and experiment and during the 1920s and 1930s the study of child development started to grow as a movement, particularly in the USA with the founding of Institutes of Child Study or Child Welfare in university centres such as Iowa and Minnesota. Minute observations were made of young children in their developmental phase along with normal and abnormal behaviour and adjustment. In the 1920s Jean Piaget started his long and passionate career in child psychology, blending observation and experiment in his studies of children’s thinking [refer to essay].

The observations carried out in naturalistic settings was soon criticised by the empiricists of the behavioural movement in the 1940s and 1950s [although it continued to be the method of choice in the study of animal behaviour by zoologists]. This led to many psychologist carrying their experiments under laboratory conditions with statistical methods, and such experiments although come with some advantages from the perspective of empirical statistics, they do have limitations and drawbacks [e.g. on measuring qualitative aspects of personality such as emotions, values, etc]. It should be noted that much of the laboratory work on child development from the 1950s and 1960s has been described by Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979) as “the science of the behaviour of children in strange situations with strange adults”.

Schaffer (1996, pp. xiv – xvii) notes other changes in the methods in which psychologists now approach child development, such as the importance in understanding the processes of how children grow and develop rather than simply outcomes, and to integrate findings from a range of sources at different levels of analysis – for example meaningful others, community [geography, socio-linguistics, arts, etc] and culture [religion, nationality(ies), education, class, etc).

In the course of this essay, we will be integrating perspectives to make the most of the findings in distinguishing differences in personality, by reflecting on the links to be made by psychologists between the concept of the child’s “internal working model of relationships” and discoveries about the “theory of mind”.

It is fundamental to acknowledge that psychology itself is mostly based on accurate approximations due to the statistical methods used and the problematic nature of the qualitative variables measured, and not precision. And with this in mind, we should accept the complementary virtues of various different methods of investigation and gain a sense that the child’s process of development and the socio-behavioural context in which they exist are closely intertwined, each having an influence on the other.

 

Defining development according to world views

Intellectuals and researchers who study development also have different views on the topic, that is, the way in which development is defined, and the areas of development that are of interest to individual researchers generally orients them towards specific methodologies and philosophy when studying development.

We are now going to look at the 2 main views in the study of development given by psychologists who hold different views or sometimes combine elements of both, like ourselves, being firmly on the organic perspective of development and construction.

A world view [also known as paradigm, model, or world hypothesis] can be characterised as “a philosophical system of thinking, perceiving and feeling [ideas and more] that serves to organise a set or family of scientific theories and associated scientific methods” (1986, p. 42).

They are beliefs we adopt because it aligns with our values, and these are qualitative and often not open to common reductive empirical tests – that is precisely why we believe them!

Lerner and others note that many developmental theories appear to fall under one or two world views: organismic and mechanistic.

 

Organismic World View

The organismic world view which is the main view that we adopted to be the foundation of the Organic Theory, is one that sees a human being on earth as a biological organism that is inherently active and continually interacting with the environment [all aspects and dimensions], and therefore helping to shape its own development. The organismic worldview emphasises the interaction between maturation and experience that leads to the development of new internal, psychological structures for processing environmental input (e.g. Getsdottir & Lerner, 2008).

As Lerner states: “The Organismic model stresses the integrated structural features of the organism. If the parts making up the whole become reorganised as a consequence of the organism’s active construction of its own functioning, the structure of the organism may take on a new meaning; thus qualitatively distinct principles may be involved in human functioning at different points in life. These distinct, or new, levels of organisation are termed stages…” (p.57). A good analogy would be qualitative changes that take place when the molecules of two gasses hydrogen and oxygen, combine to form a liquid, water. Many other qualitative changes happen to water when it changes from frozen (ice) to liquid (water) to steam (vapour). Depending on the temperature, these qualitative changes in the state of water are easily reversed, BUT in human development the qualitative changes that take place are very rarely, if ever, reversible – that is, each new stage represents an advance on the previous stage, and the organism [human being] does not regress to former stages.

Irreversible

The main argument is that the new stage is not simply reducible to components of the previous stage; it represents new characteristics that were not present in the previous stage.

For example, the organism appears to pass through structural changes during foetal development [See Picture A].

PA Development of the human foetal brain_A_v2.jpg

PICTURE A. Development of the human foetal brain / Source: Adapted from J.H.Martin (2003), Neuroanatomy Text and Atlas (3rd ed., p.51). Stamford, CT:Appleton & Lange.

In the initial stage [Period of the Ovumfirst few weeks after conception] cells multiply and form clusters; in the second stage [Period of the Embryo – 2 – 8 weeks] the major body parts are formed by cell multiplication, specialisation and migration as well as cell death; in the last stage [Period of the Foetus] the body parts mature and begin to operate as an integrated system [e.g. head orientation towards and away from stimulation, arm extensions and grasping, thumb sucking, startles to loud noises, and so on (Fifer, 2010; Hepper, 2007)]. It is important to understand that similar stages of psychological development are postulated to happen after birth also, and the individual from one stage to another is different with new abilities that cannot be reversed.

Jean Piaget is perhaps the greatest and best example of a successful organismic theorist. Piaget suggested that cognitive development occurs in stages and that the reasoning of the child at one stage is qualitatively different from that of the earlier or later stages.

Partir en Livre Bibliothèque nationale de France dpurb d'purb site web

Image: Bibliothèque Nationale de France

The main job of the developmental psychologist who believes in the organismic worldview [like ourselves] is to determine when [i.e., at what age?] different psychological stages operate and what variables and processes represent the different between stages and determine the transition between them.

 

Mechanistic World View

From the mechanistic world view, it is assumed that a person can be broken down into components and can be represented as being like a machine [such as a computer], which is inherently passive until stimulated by the environment [this view seems to be more in line with the early British thinkers about the brain]. Human behaviour is reducible to the operation of fundamental behavioural units [e.g. habits] that are acquired in a progressive, cumulative manner. The mechanistic view assumes that the frequency of behaviours can increase with age due to various learning processes and they can decrease with age when they no longer have any functional consequence, or lead to negative consequences [such as punishment]. The developmental psychologists job here is to study environmental factors, or principles of learning, which determine the way organisms respond to stimulation, and which results in increases, decreases, and changes in behaviour.

Quite unlike the organismic world view, the mechanistic world view sees development as reflected by a more continuous growth function, rather than occurring in qualitatively different stages, and the child is believed to be passive rather than active in shaping its own development and its environment. This mechanistic view is generally embraced by behaviourists and cognitive-behaviourists who function on a reductionist philosophy based on the limitations of the scientific method when faced with understanding psychology and the mechanism of mind; instead they tend to focus on measurable behaviour and treat the brain as an information processing centre with a highly similar logic to a computer. The mechanistic view while being fairly grotesque due to its reductionist values, has revealed to be very practical in the study of human-machine interaction and along with new cognitive methods, it has helped to enhance the design of technological equipment to improve human experience in a wide range of areas.

As for us, we are mostly on the perspective of the organismic school of thought but refuse to completely dismiss all the mechanistic world view’s elements, because some of it can be embedded as secondary cognitive processes carried out by the conscious or preconscious areas of the mind when appraising stimuli from an organism’s environment. Hence, some elements can be embedded in understanding interaction with basic objects and elements of an organism’s “external” [not internal] environment, but to fully base our thoughts and behaviour on a mechanistic world view would arguably be irrationally reductionist.

 

Theories of Development

 

“Es gibt nichts Praktischeres al seine gute Theorie.”

–Emmanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)

 

“There is nothing so practical as a good theory.”

-Kurt Lewin (1944, p. 195)

 

Human development is complex and it would be irrational to expect a single universal theory of development that could do justice to this complexity, and indeed no theory of development attempts to do so. Each theory attempts to account for only a limited range of development and it is often the case that within each area of development there are competing theoretical views, each attempting to account for the same aspects of development. We shall see below some of this complexity and conflict in our account of different theoretical views.

First of all, it would be helpful to understand what is implied by a “Theory” in the field of developmental psychology. A theory of development is a scheme or system of ideas that is generally based on evidence and attempts to explain, describe and predict behaviour and development. So, from this account, it is quite clear that a theory aims to bring order to what might otherwise be a chaotic mass of information – and hence why there may indeed not be anything more practical than a good theory.

We usually deal with at least 2 kinds of theory in every area of development, we have the minor theories [that are generally concerned with very specific and narrow areas of development such as eye movements, the origins of pointing and so on], and we have the major theories which are the ones we are primarily interested in as they attempt to explain large areas of development.

They have been divided in 3 groups for the purpose of this essay, with cognition, emotion and motivation in focus:

(I) The Theory of Cognitive Development of Jean Piaget


(II) The Theory of Attachment in Emotional Development by John Bowlby


(III) The Genetic/Psychosexual Model of Development by Sigmund Freud

 

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(I) The Theory of Cognitive Development (Jean Piaget)

The theory of cognitive development we are interested in is that of Jean Piaget who saw children as active agents in shaping their own development,  and not simply blank slates who passively and unthinkingly responds to whatever the environment throws at them or treats them to [an assumption that is insulting to human intelligence, hence why we do not subscribe blindly to the passive school of thought but only consider some elements related to very basic cognitive processes].

This suggests that children’s behaviour and development is motivated largely intrinsically (internally) rather than extrinsically (externally).

For Piaget and intellectuals with a firm belief in the mind as an active entity, children learn to adapt to their environment and as a result of their cognitive adaptations they are now better able to understand their world. Adaptation is an act that all living organisms have evolved to do and as children adapt, they also gradually construct more advanced understanding [internal working models] of their worlds.

(1919) Jaroslava & Jiri by Alphonse Mucha (1860 - 1939)

(1919) Jaroslava & Jiri, The Artist’s Children by Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939)

These more advanced understanding of the world reflect themselves in the appearance of new stages of development. Piaget’s theory is the best and most accomplished example of the organismic world view, and it portrays children as inherently active, continually interacting with various dimensions of their environments, in such a way as to shape their own development.

With this assumption in mind, Piaget’s theory is also often referred to the Constructivist Theory.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: For a detailed account of Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, please read the essay…]

 

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(II) The Theory of Attachment in Emotional Development (John Bowlby)

If we pick up a new born baby , he/she will respond without any difference to us or to any other person. However, after 9 months, the same baby will have developed one or more selective attachments and will discriminate familiar faces to unfamiliar ones. So, if we were to pick up the baby again, we may face scenarios where he/she displays anxiety or cries, but if the mother or father picks her/him up, the baby will be reassured and pacified.

This section will explore and give an account of the development of attachment relationships between infants, parents, and other close primary caregivers. The significance of such attachments for development in adult life will also be considered, with its implication for the philosophy of education in sculpting the minds of tomorrow, along with some research on parenting styles analysing some of the factors affecting successful and less successful parenting.

 

The Development of Attachment Relationships: Attachment as an innate drive

The infant’s expression of emotions and the caregiver’s response to these emotions is the fundamental foundation of John Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment. Bowlby’s (1958, 1969 / 1982, 1973, 1980) theory was inspired and influenced by an exciting and creative range of disciplines including psychoanalysis, ethology and the biological sciences. Before Bowlby, the main assumption and view of the infant-mother attachment was that it was a “secondary drive” or a side-product of the infant associating the mother with the provision of physiological needs, such as hunger [Picture B – breast feeding image].

Breastfeeding Mother

PICTURE B. Early theories of infant-mother attachment suggested that it was a secondary drive resulting from the mother satisfying the infant’s primary drives, such as hunger. / Photography:  Jo Frances

Bowlby defied this logic, and argued convincingly that attachment was an innate primary drive in all infants, and while his theory went through many revisions over the years, this argument remained fundamental.

In Bowlby’s first version of his theory of attachment (Bowlby, 1958), the emphasis was on the role of behaviours resulting from our instincts [on how behaviours such as crying, clinging and smiling served the purpose of eliciting a reciprocal attachment response from the caregiver]:

There matures in the early months of life of the human infant a complex and nicely balanced equipment of instinctual responses, the function of which is to ensure that he obtains parental care sufficient for his survival. To this end the equipment includes responses which promote his close proximity to a parent and… evoke parental activity.

(Bowlby, 1958, p. 346)

However, in the 1969 version of his theory (1st volume of his trilogy, Attachment and Loss),  Bowlby focussed on highlighting the dynamics of attachment behaviour, and switched to explaining the infant-mother tie in terms of a goal-corrected system which was triggered by environmental cues rather than innate instinctual behaviours. Whether attachment is instinctual or goal-corrected, we know that it eventually leads to the infant maintaining proximity to the primary caregiver.

Bowlby acknowledged that the development of an attachment relationship was not dependent purely upon the social and emotional interplay between infant and caregiver. Since we can only observe attachment behaviour primarily when the infant is separated from the caregiver, it is logically dependent upon the infant’s level of cognitive development in the ability for object permanence [i.e. the ability to represent an object (living or non-living) that is not physically present within the child’s proximity].

This seems to synchronise partly with Piaget’s outlook and theory of cognitive development, and indeed Bowlby was inspired by Jean Piaget, and based his argument on Piaget’s (1955) contention that this level of object permanence is not attained until the infant is approximately 8 months old. Furthermore, while children would be able to recognise familiar people before such age, they would still not miss the attachment figure and thus display attachment behaviour until they have reached the level of cognitive sophistication that comes with the ability to represent absent objects [and people, who are in the same class].

 

The Phases of Attachment: Development of Attachment Relationships

Let us imagine a classic example of a mother and child [about 1 – 2 year-old] in a park. What we might observe is that the mother is seated on a bench while the infant runs off to explore the area. Periodically, the child may be seen to stop and look back at the mother, and every once in a while may even return close to her, or make physical contact, staying close for a while before venturing off again. In most cases, the infant rarely goes beyond about 60 metres from the mother or primary caregiver, who may however have to go and retrieve the child if the distance gets too great or if the need to leave is imminent.

The scenario here from a developmental psychologist’s perspective is fairly simple; the infant is exploring the environment it is being exposed to inquisitively, and is using the mother as a “secure base” to which to return periodically for reassurance. This is one of the hallmarks of an “attachment relationship”. These observations of children in parks were made by a student of John Bowlby, Anderson (1972) in London, and the development of attachment has been described in detail by John Bowlby (1969).

Bowlby (1969, p. 79) described 4 phases in the development of attachment and subsequently extended it to a 5th.

The phases are:

I. The pre-attachment phase (0 – 2 months) is characterised by the infant showing hardly any differentiation in their responses to familiar or unfamiliar faces.

II. During the second phase (2 – 7 months), the foundations of attachment are being laid. Here infants start to recognise their caregivers, even if they still do not possess the ability to show attachment behaviours upon separation. The infant is also more likely to smile at the mother or important caregivers and to be comforted by them if distressed.

bebe-mange-puree-de-fruits.jpg

III. Clear cut attachment behaviours only start to appear after 7 months. At this phase, infants start to protest at being separated from their caregivers and become very wary of strangers [so called stranger anxiety] – this is often taken as a definition of attachment to caregiver and this onset of attachment happens from 7 – 9 months.

IV. When the attachment relationship has evolved into a goal-corrected partnership (from around 24 months / 2 years of age), [i.e. when the child also begins to accommodate to the mother’s needs, e.g. being prepared to wait alone if requested until the mother returns]. This is an important change because before this phase, the infant only saw the mother as a resource that had to be available when needed. Bowlby saw this as characterising the child at 3 years of age, although as mentioned from 2 years old babies can partly accommodate to verbal requests by mothers to await for her return (Weinraub and Lewis, 1977). From this phase onwards, the child relies on representation or internal working models of attachment relationships to guide their future social interactions.

V. The lessening of attachment is noticed as measured by the child maintaining proximity. The characteristics of a school-age child, and older, is the idea of a relationship based more on abstract considerations such as affection, trust, loyalty and approval, exemplified by an internal working model of the relationship.

Bowlby viewed attachment as a canalized developmental process where both the mainly instinctive repertoire of the new born and certain forms of learning are important in early social interactions. Certain aspects of cognitive sensori-motor development [as supported by Jean Piaget] are also fundamental for attachment. Until the developing infant can master the concept of cause-effect relations, and of the continued existence of objects [incl. persons] when out of sight, he or she cannot protest at separation and attempt to maintain proximity [note the importance of object permanence in emotional development and internal working models]. Hence, sensori-motor development is also a canalised process, and it should not be in opposition to an ethological and a cognitive-learning approach to attachment development.

 

Attachments: Between whom?

Many articles and textbooks have characterised the attachment relationship as mainly focussed on the mother (e.g. Sylvia and Lunt, 1981), and this may not be completely true, since many studies have suggested that early attachments are usually multiple, and although the strongest attachment is often to the mother, this need not always be so.

In a study conducted in Scotland, mothers were interviewed and asked to whom their toddlers showed separation protest (Schaffer and Emerson, 1964), the proportion of babies with more than 1 attachment figure increased from 29% when separation protest first appeared [about 7 – 9 months] to 87% at 18 months [1 and half year old]. It was also found that for about one third of babies, the strongest attachment seemed to be to someone other than the mother, such as father, or other trusted primary caregivers. In most cases, attachment were formed to responsive persons who interacted and played a lot with the infant; basic caregiving such as nappy changing was clearly not in itself such an important factor; and similar results were obtained by Cohen and Campos (1974).

UglyLeeches

Peinture: Sandrine Arbon

Studies in other cultures also support this conclusion, for example in the Israeli kibbutzim, young children spend the majority of their waking hours in small communal nurseries, in the charge of a nurse or metapelet. In a study of 1- and 2- year-olds reared in this way, it was found that the infants were very strongly attached to both the mother, and the metapelet; either could serve as a base for exploration, and provide reassurance when the infant felt insecure (Fox, 1977). In many agricultural societies, mothers tend to work in the fields, and often leave infants in the village, in the care of grandparents, or older siblings, returning periodically to breastfeed. In a survey of 186 non-industrial societies, it was found that the mother was rated as the “almost exclusive” caretaker in infancy in only 5 of them; hence other persons had important caregiving roles in 40% of societies during the infancy period, and in 80% of societies during early childhood (Weisner and Gallimore, 1977).

 

The Security of Attachment

Early infant-caregiver attachment relationships and the internal working models are the main aspects of Bowlby’s theory of attachment and have been given the greatest attention, with researchers developing 2 of the most widely used measuring instruments in developmental psychology to investigate Bowlby’s theoretical claims: the strange situation procedure to assess the goal-corrected system that evolved from the early attachment relationship, and the Adult Attachment Interview to assess internal working models.

Bowlby’s theory was focussed and interested with the making and breaking of attachment ties, probably because his experiences of working as a child psychologist exposed him to the negative consequences for emotional development of severe maternal deprivation [such as long term separation or being orphaned].

Nowadays, researchers and intellectuals are generally less concerned with whether a child has formed an attachment [since any child who experiences any degree of continuous care will become attached to the caregiver], but are rather more interested in the quality or security of the attachment relationship. This important shift in emphasis was due to the empirical work of Mary Ainsworth.

Ainsworth interest in the concept of attachment grew after working with Bowlby in London during the 1950s. Later, she moved to Uganda to live with the Ganda people where she made systematic observations of infant-mother interactions in order to investigate Bowlby’s goal-corrected attachment systems in action.

One factor that struck Mary Ainsworth (1963; 1967), was the lack of uniformity in infant’s attachment behaviour, in terms of its frequency, strength, and degree of organisation. Furthermore, these differences were not specific to Gandan infants, since she replicated these findings in a sample of children in the USA when she moved to Baltimore. These variations in attachment type had not been accounted for by John Bowlby’s Theory and hence, this led Ainsworth to investigate the question of individual differences in attachment.

Mary Ainsworth experience of working with Bowlby, along with her rich collection of data harvested over a period of many years, put her in a unique position in the development of attachment as an empirical field of research. Her contribution led to attachment issues becoming part of mainstream developmental psychology, rather than being simply confined to child psychiatry, and behind this achievement was an investigation of the development of attachment under normal family conditions and by developing a quick and effective way of assessing attachment patterns in the developmental laboratory.

Although the strange situation procedure (Ainsworth & Wittig, 1969) circumvented [found a way around] the need for researchers to conduct lengthy observations in the home, it was not developed simply for research convenience, but because there are problems in trying to evaluate attachment type in the child’s own home environment. For example, if a child becomes extremely distressed upon the mother moving to another room in their own home environment, this may be an indication of a less than optimal attachment achieved, because if a child feels secure then such a separation should not trigger any distress. The extensive experience of Ainsworth in observing infant-mother interactions enabled her to identify the situations that we most crucial in attachment terms, and therefore formed the basis of the strange situation procedure.

 

The Strange Situation Procedure

Ainsworth and her colleagues then developed a method for assessing the attachment strength of an individual infant towards her mother or caregiver (Ainsworth et al., 1978). The method is known as the Strange Situation, and has been widely used with 12 – 24 months old infants in many countries worldwide. To sum up, it is a method for checking in a standardised way, how well the infant uses the caregiver as a secure base for exploration, and is comforted by the caregiver after a lightly stressful experience.

The strange situation assesses infants’ responses to separations from and subsequent reunions with, the caregiver [mother here], and their reactions to an unfamiliar woman [the so-called “stranger”]. In the testing room, there are only 2 chairs [one for the mother and one for the stranger] and a range of toys with which the infant can play.

TA - The Strange Situation Procedure

Table A. The Strange Situation Procedure

As Table A shows, the episodes are ordered so that the infant’s attention should shift from the exploration of the environment to attachment behaviour towards the caregiver as the Strange Situation proceeds. The most crucial points are the infant’s responses to the 2 reunion episodes, and form the basis for assessing an infant’s security of attachment. The coding scheme for security attachment was developed by Ainsworth et al. (1978) and describes infant behaviour according to 4 indices:

1) Proximity-seeking
2) Contact-maintenance
3) Resistance
4) Avoidance

Referring to Table A, in a well-functioning attachment relationship, it would generally assumed that the infant would use the mother as a base to explore [Episodes 2, 3 and the end of Episode 5], but be stressed by the mother’s absence (Episodes 4, 6 and 7;  these episodes are cancelled if the infant is overly distressed or the mother wants to return sooner]. Special attention is also given to the infant’s behaviour in the reunion episodes (5 and 8), to see if her or she is effectively comforted by the mother. Based on those measures, Ainsworth and others distinguished a number of different attachment types.

The 4 primary ones are:

Type A – Insecure Avoidant Attachment

Insecure-Avoidant (Type A) infants display high levels of environment-directed behaviour to the detriment of attachment behaviour towards the caregiver [i.e. Avoidant (A) – avoids caregiver and explores environment]. The Insecure Avoidant Types display little if any proximity-seeking behaviour, and even tend to avoid the caregiver, by averting gaze or turning or moving away, if the caregiver attempts to make contact. Throughout the whole process of the Strange Situation, Insecure Avoidant infants appear completely indifferent toward the caregiver, and treat both the latter and the stranger is very similar ways; hence, these infants may show less avoidance of the stranger than of the caregiver.

Note that conversely, the (Type C) Insecure Resistant / Ambivalent Attached infants show high levels of environmental-directed behaviour to the detriment of the caregiver [the complete opposite to Type A].

Type B – Secure Attachment

When the dynamics of the attachment relationship is a balance between environmental exploration and attachment behaviour directed towards the caregiver [See PICTURE C], then the securely attached infants are considered as having the right balance.

PC Attachment as a balance of behaviour TA

PICTURE C. Attachment as a balance of behaviour directed toward mother and the environment. Source: Adapted from Meins (1997).

 

The presence of the caregiver in the pre-separation episodes affords them the security to turn their attention to exploration and play, with the confident knowledge that the caregiver will be available for comfort or support should it be required. However, attachment behaviour is triggered in securely-attached infants during the separation episodes, leading to seek contact, comfort, proximity or interaction with the caregiver when they return. Securely attached infants may or may not become distressed upon separation from caregivers, and this makes the infants’ response to separation a relatively unreliable and poor indicator of attachment security. However, regardless of their response to separation, securely attached children are marked by their positive and quick response to the caregiver’s return, displayed generally by their readiness to approach, greet and interact with the caregiver.

It important to note that Type B [Secure] Attachment is the only “secure” attachment in the group, all the rest are insecure attachment types, and in contrast to Type B, they have their balance of infant attachment tipped to either extreme [i.e. Avoidant (A) – avoids caregiver and explores environment / Resistant (C) – avoids environment and exhausts caregiver]

Type C- Insecure Resistance / Ambivalent

Insecure-resistant infants are over-involved with [to the point of exhausting] the caregiver, showing attachment behaviour even during the pre-separation episodes, with little or no interest in exploring the environment. The Insecure Resistant (Type C) infants tend to become extremely distressed upon separation, however, the over-activation of their attachment system hampers their ability to be comforted by the caregiver upon reunion – this leads to angry or petulant behaviour, with the infant resisting contact with and from the caregiver [in extreme cases this manifests itself as tantrum behaviour where the caregiver may sometimes be hit or kicked by the infant].

Type D – Insecure Disorganised

Besides the original 3 categories mentioned above distinguished by Ainsworth et al. (1978), Main and Solomon (1986, 1990) established a fourth category, Type D [Insecure Disorganised Attachment] for infants whose behaviours appeared not to match any of the A [Avoidant], B [Secure] and C [Resistant/Ambivalent] categories. These insecure-disorganised infants look disoriented during the strange situation procedure, and display no clear strategy for coping with separations from and reunion with their caregivers. Infants classified as insecure-disorganised may simultaneously display contradictory behaviour during the reunion episodes, such as seeking proximity while also displaying obvious avoidance [e.g. backing to which the caregiver or approaching with head sharply averted]. Insecure-disorganised infants (Type D) may also react to reunion with fearful, stereotypical or odd behaviours [e.g. rocking themselves, ear pulling, or freezing]. Main and Hesse (1990) argued that, although the classification criteria for insecure-disorganised attachment are diverse, the characteristic disorganised behaviours all include a lack of coherence in the infant’s response to attachment distress and betray the “contradiction or inhibition of action as it is being undertaken” (p.173).

Main and her colleagues (1985) believe the Type D [Insecure-disorganised ] is a useful extension of the original Ainsworth classification.

There are many subtypes of these main types, however most studies do not refer to them, and in older studies, type D babies [who are often difficult to classify as they do not show a clear pattern] were ‘forced’ into 3-way and 4-way classifications.

In most cases, type B babies (secure – considered as most desired, i.e. “normal” / although debated] are compared with types A and C [inscure-avoidant and insecure-resistant/ambivalent], and the type B [secure-attachment] tends to be seen as developmentally normal, or advantageous. Many criticisms have been made of the attachment typing resulting from the Strange Situation procedure (Lamb et al., 1984), particularly of the earlier work that was based on small samples, and of the normative assumption that “B is best”. They also pointed out the procedure only measures the relationship between mother and infant, and not the characteristics of the infant. Since attachment security is the dyadic measure, infant-mother attachment type is not necessarily the same as infant-father attachment type. In fact, many studies have found that the attachment type to father is not related to that with the mother; meta-analyses (Fox et al., 1991; van Ijzendoorn and De Wolff, 1997) found a very modest association between the two.

However, the strange situation procedure is today a commonly and internationally used technique. One of the most important test of utility of attachment types is that it should allow us to predict other aspects of development, and we now have considerable evidence for this (see Bretherton and Waters, 1985 and Waters et al., 1995, for reviews).

Kochanska (2001) followed infants longitudinally from 9 to 33 months and observe their emotions in standard laboratory episodes designed to elicit fear, anger or joy. Over time, type A (Avoidant – towards caregiver) infants became more fearful, type C (Resistant/Ambivalent – exhausts caregiver) infants became less joyful, type D (Disorganised – does not fit in A, B or C behavioural categories) infants became more angry; whereas type B (Secure) infants showed less fear, anger or distress. Using the strange situation procedure, secure attachment to mother at 12 months has been found to predict curiosity and problem solving at age 2, social confidence at nursery school at age 3, and empathy and independence at age 5 (Oppenheim et al., 1988), and a lack of behaviour problems (in boys) at age 6 (Lewis et al., 1984).

Is the Strange Situation valid across populations worldwide?

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) provided a cross-cultural comparison of strange situation studies in a variety of different countries. In American studies, some 70% of infants were classified as securely attached to their mothers (type B), some 20% as Type A, and some 10% as Type C. However, German investigators found that some 40-50% of infants were of Type A (Grossman et al., 1981), while a Japanese study found 35% to be of Type C (Miyake et al., 1985). These percentages do raise the question about the nature of “insecure attachment”: is it a less satisfactory mode of development or are these just different styles of interaction?

Takahashi (1990) argued that the Strange Situation must be interpreted carefully when it is applied across cultures. He found that Japanese were excessively distressed by infant alone episode (episode 6 – Table A), because generally in Japanese culture babies are never left alone at 12 months. This is the reason why fewer Japanese babies scored B (Secure). It is also important to note, that there was no chance for them to show avoidance (and score A – insecure avoidant), since the mother seeing the level of distress went straight on without hesitation to pick up the baby. This may also be possible explanation as to why many Japanese babies were C (Insecure Resistant/Ambivalent) at 12 months [still they are not at 24 months, nor are adverse consequences apparent]. This distortion can be avoided by virtually omitting episode 6 (see Table A) for such babies. Rothbaum et al. (2000) do take a more radical stance, in comparing the assessment security in the USA and Japan. They argue that these two cultures put different cultural values on constructs such as independence, autonomy, social competence and sensitivity; such that some fundamental tenets of attachment theory are called into question as cross-cultural universals.

Cole (1998) suggested that we need information of the geographical trends in socio-behavioural patterns [culture, heritage, language, arts, etc] under study if we are to understand the nature of the everyday interactions that shape the development of young children in relation to their caregivers. The strange situation may be a valid indicator but we at least need to redefine the meaning of the categories “avoidant, secure and resistant / ambivalent” according to the geographical socio-behavioural patterns [culture]. He also argued that although it is a standardised test, strange situation is really a different situation in different environmental circumstances. However for successful use of the strange situation in a non-western culture [one that is not of Western European heritage], we can take a look at the Dogon people of Mali.

Infant-mother attachment among the Dogon of Mali

The study we are about to discuss is a very rare one among its kind which took place among the Dogon people of Eastern Mali, a primarily agrarian people living by subsistence farming of millet and other crops, as well as cash economy in towns [see PICTURE D].

PD - Dogon mother spinning cotton with child on her lap

PICTURE D. Dogon mother spinning cotton with child on her lap

The study was carried out in 2 villages with a total population of about 400, and one town population of 9000, with the researchers attempting to get a complete coverage of infants born between mid-July and mid-September 1989. Not all infants could take part, due to relocation or refusal, and the researchers excluded 2 infants who had birth defects, and 8 suffering from severe malnutrition. In addition, after recruitment two infants die before or during the two-month testing period. Finally, 42 mother-infant pairs took part and provide a good quality data. The infants were 10 to 12 months old at the time of testing.

The Dogon are a polyamorous society, and mothers typically live in a compound with an open courtyard, often shared with co-wives. There was some degree of shared care of infants, about one half were cared for primarily or exclusively by the mother, about one third primarily by the maternal grandmother with a mother however being responsible for breastfeeding (see PICTURE E).

PE - Dogon mother breastfeeding her child

PICTURE E. Dogon mother breastfeeding her child.

Breastfeeding is a normative response by the mother to signs of distress in in the Dogon infants. Three related features of infant care in the Dogon – frequent breastfeeding on demand, quick response to infant distress, and constant proximity to the mother or caregiver – are seen as adaptive and there is high infant mortality [as in some other traditional African cultures].

The researchers have several objectives in mind, they wish to see if the strange situation could be used successfully in Dogon culture; one distribution of attachment types was obtained; whether infant security correlated with maternal sensitivity – a test of the Maternal Sensitivity Hypothesis; whether infant attachment type related to patterns of attachment-related communications in mother-infant interaction – the test of what the authors call the Communication Hypothesis; and to see if frightened or frightening behaviour by the mother predicted disorganised infant attachment.

Three situations were used to obtain relevant data, the behaviour being recorded on videotape in each case. One was rather new – the Weigh-In, part of the regular well-infant examination, in which the mother handed over the infant to be weighed on a scale – and mildly stressful separation for the in, especially in Dogon culture. The other two were more standard – the strange situation, carried out in an area of courtyard separated off by hanging mats; and two 15 minute observations in the infant’s home, and the mother was cooking, bathing/caring for the infant.

The following data were obtained:

  • Infant attachment classification (from the strange situation)
  • A rating of infant security on a 9-point scale (from the strange situation)
  • Mother and infant communication related to attachment, coded by 5-point Communications Violations Rating scales (from the Weigh-in)
  • Maternal sensitivity, rated in terms of promptness, appropriateness and completeness of response to infant signals (from the home observations)
  • Frightened or frightening behaviours by the mother, such as aggressive approach, disorientation, trance state, rough handling as if baby is an object, on a 5-point scale (from the home observations and the Weigh-In).

[REMEMBER!!!! [although we are quite sure you know this already] : “r” is known as the correlation coefficient and tells us 2 things: (i) Direction of Relationship + or – & (ii) Strength of Relationship : +or- .1 is a small effect / +or- .3 is a medium effect / +or- .5 is a large effect | and p-value is the critical decider of whether to reject Null Hypothesis( i.e. the scenario we rightly thought would be opposite to our predictions) if p small enough (if p < .05 we say results were statistically significant, if p < .01 we say it is HIGHLY statistically significant) we reject the Null Hypothesis [both cases].

The strange situation was found to be feasible, following quite standard procedures. The distribution of attachment types was 67% B (Secure), 0% A (Avoidant), 8% C (Resistant/Ambivalent), and 25% D (or on a forced 3-way classification, 87% B, 0% A and 13% C). This is quite unusual in having no avoidant (A) classifications; D is high but not significantly greater than Western norms.

The Maternal Sensitivity Hypothesis only received weak support. The correlation between infant security and maternal sensitivity was r = 0.28, and with p < .10; the difference in means between attachment classifications was not statistically significant (B=5.26, C=5.00, D=4.20).

The Communications Hypothesis did get support. Infant security correlated -.54 with Communications Violations (p < .001), and the attachment classifications differed significantly (B=2.66, C = 3.50, D = 3.89; p < .01).

Finally, frightened or frightening behaviour by the mother correlated r = -.40 (p < .01) with infant security, and was particularly high in children with disorganised attachment (B= 1.23, C = 1.33, D = 2.35; p < .01).

Besides demonstrating the general application of the strange situation procedure in a nonwestern group with socio-behavioural patterns very different to our own, the findings provides support for the Communication Hypothesis. The case here would have been stronger if the different kinds of communication patterns for each attachment classification had been described in more detail. For example, that insecure resistant / ambivalent (C) attachment type infants would be inconsistent and often unable to convey their intent, or to terminate their own or another’s arousal, whereas insecure disorganised (D) attachment type infants would “manifest contextually irrational behaviours and dysfluent communication” (p. 1451). As it is, the main findings show that insecure infants show more communications violations, do not describe the detailed typology. Indeed, since some of the Communications Violations rating scales were of “avoidance, resistance and disorganisation” (p. 1456), there is a possible danger of conceptual overlap between this scale and the attachment classifications.

Although support for the Maternal Sensitivity Hypothesis was we, the correlation of r = .28 is in line with the average of r = .24 found in the meta-analysis by De Wolff and Van Ijzendoorn (1997) on mainly Western samples. The researchers used a multiple regression analysis to examine the contributions of both maternal sensitivity and mothers frightened/frightening behaviour, to attachment security. They found that the contribution of maternal sensitivity remain modest, whereas the contribution of mothers frightened/frightening behaviour was substantial and significant; ratings of maternal sensitivity do not normally take account of mothers frightened/frightening behaviour, and the researchers suggest that this might explain the modest effects found for maternal sensitivity to date.

The absence of avoidant (A – avoids caregiver and favours exploration) type infants is interesting and the researchers argue that, given the close contact mothers maintained with the Dogon infants, and the normal use of breastfeeding as a comforting activity, it would be very difficult for it Dogon infant to develop an avoidant strategy [this may have some similarity with the low proportion of A-type in Japanese infants). If avoidant (A) attachment is a rare or absent when infants nursed on demand (which probably characterises much of human evolution), this might suggest that A type attachment was and is a rare except in Western samples in which infants tend to be fed on schedule, and often by bottle rather than breast, so that the attachment and feeding systems are effectively separated.

Most Dogon infants showed secure (B) attachment, but 25% scored as disorganised (D) [though mostly with secure as the forced 3-way classification]. The researchers comment that the frightened or frightening behaviours were mild to moderate, and did not constitute physical abuse. But why should mothers show these sorts of behaviour at all? An intriguing possibility is that it is related to the high level of infant mortality prevalent in the Dogon. About one third of infants died before five years of age, and most mothers will have experience in early bereavement. Unresolved loss experienced by a mother is hypothesised to disorganised (D) attachment; perhaps, frightened behaviours are more rational or expected, when the risk for infants are so much higher.

This study to great efforts to be sensitive to the geographically specific socio-behavioural patterns (culture) of the venue, when using procedures and instruments derive mainly from Western samples. A Malian researcher assisted in developing the maternal sensitivity coding, and Dogon women acted as strangers in the strange situation procedure. The Weigh-In and home observations were natural settings. The authors comment, however, that future work might make more effort to tap the perceptions of mothering and attachment held by the Dogon people themselves, in addition to the constructs coming from Western psychology.

(True, M. M., et al, 2001)

 

Back Home in the West: Why do infants develop certain attachment types?

Enfant en train de lire

Individual differences in the caregiver’s sensitivity to infant’s cues were the earliest reported predictors of attachment security. Ainsworth and colleagues (Ainsworth, Bell & Stayton, 1971, 1974; Ainsworth et al., 1978) found that mothers who responded most sensitively to their infants’ cues during the first year of life tended subsequently to have securely attached infants. The insecure-avoidant (Type A) pattern of attachment was associated with mothers who tended to reject or ignore their infants’ cues, and inconsistent patterns of mothering were related insecure-resistant/ambivalent (Type C) pattern of attachment. Although further research has largely supported this link between early caregiver sensitivity and later attachment security, the strength of the relation between these factors has not been replicated. For example, De Wolff and van Ijzendoorn (1997) conducted a meta-analysis to explore the parental antecedents of attachment security using data from 21 studies involving over 1000 infant-mother says, and reported a moderate effect size for the relation between sensitivity and attachment security (r = 0.24), compared with the large effect (r = 0.85) in Ainsworth et al.’s (1978) study. This led De Wolff and van Ijzendoorn to come to the conclusion that “sensitivity cannot be considered to be the exclusive and most important factor in the development of attachment” (p. 585).

It seemed that the construct of sensitivity might have been responsible for the result, so we return to Ainsworth et al.’s (1971, 1974) original definitions in order to have a better understanding of predictors of attachment security. In this research, we were particularly influenced by Ainsworth’s focus on the caregiver’s ability not merely to respond to the infant, but to respond in a way that was consistent with the infants cue. For example, Ainsworth et al., (1971) describe how mothers of securely attached infants appeared “capable of perceiving things from the child’s point of view” (p. 43), whereas maternal insensitivity involve the mother attempting to “socialise with the baby when he is hungry, play with him when he is tired, and feed him when he is trying to initiate social interaction” (Ainsworth et al., 1974, p. 129). Meins et al. (2001) verse argued that the critical aspect of sensitivity was the caregiver’s ability to “read” the infant’s signals accurately so that the response could be matched to this passive cue from the child.

baby-bebe-d'purb dpurb site web.jpg

In order to test this proposal, Meins et al. (2001) obtain measures of mothers’ ability to read their 6-month-olds’ signals appropriately (so called mind-mindedness), and investigated the comparative strength of mind-mindedness versus general maternal sensitivity in predicting subsequent infant-mother attachment security. Meins et al. reported that maternal mind-mindedness was a better predictor of attachment security 6 months later than was maternal sensitivity, with mind-mindedness accounting for almost twice the variance in attachment security than that accounted for by sensitivity.

This seems like a strong conclusion, since the genetic factors have been accounted for and do not contribute to attachment type as van Ijzendoorn et al. (2000) argued that it has a modest if any influence on attachment type. This can be confirmed from a twin study conducted by O’Connor and Croft (2001) when they assessed 110 twin pairs in the strange situation and found concordance of 70% in monozygotic twins and 64% in dizygotic twins – not significantly different. The model suggested estimates of only 14% of variance in attachment type due to genetics, 32% to shared environment, and 53% in non-shared environment.

A study of attachments formed by babies to foster mothers (Dozier et al., 2001) found as good a concordance between mothers’ attachment state of mind (from the Adult Attachment Interview, see below) and infant attachment type from the strange situation, as for biological mother-infant pairs, once again suggesting little genetic influence on attachment type.

So, it is fairly accepted today that mothers’ mind-mindedness is an important construct and it is defined as the mother treating her infant as an individual with a mind, instead of just an organism or small creature with needs to be satisfied. The emphasis should be on responding to the infant’s inferred state of mind, rather than simply their behaviour. In a longitudinal study of 71 mother-infant pairs, they found that maternal sensitivity (responding to infant cues) and some aspects of mind-mindedness, especially appropriate mind-related comments by the mother, measured at six months, both independently predicted security of attachment at 12 months. True et al., (2001) also found evidence that mothers’ frightened or frightening behaviour may also contribute independently to attachment security (Refer to Dogon Study above – Picture D and Picture E).

We should also take note that a huge amount of variance in attachment type appears to be related non-shared environment, and this cannot be explained by generalised maternal sensitivity. It is highly probable that, mothers are more sensitive and behave differently to some infants than others, depending on birth order, gender and infant characteristics, suggesting the need for family systems on these issues (van Ijzendoorn et al., 2000).

 

Attachment Beyond Infancy & The Internal Working Model

The attachment theory proposes that children use their early experiences with their caregivers to form internal working models (Bowlby, 1969 /1982, 1980) which incorporate representations of themselves, their caregivers, and their relationships with others. These internal working models will then be used by the child as templates for interacting with others. Consequently, because of the sensitive, loving support that securely attached children’s caregivers have supplied, these children are self-confident and have a model of themselves as being worthy; they therefore expect others to behave in a sensitive and supportive fashion. Conversely, given the patterns of interaction typically experienced by avoidant and resistant infants, insecurely attached children expect people to be rejecting, or inconsistent and ambivalent when interacting with them.

The strange situation measures security of attachment in terms of behaviours; especially how the infant behaves at a reunion of the separation. The strange situation procedure is generally used with infants between the ages of 12-24 months old. For 3 – 6 year-olds, variants of the strange situation, such as a reunion episodes after separation, have been used with some success (Main and Cassidy, 1988).

Research during the last 10 years has seen attachment become a life-span construct with corresponding attempts to measure it at different developmental stages (see Melhuish, 1993, for a review). It has been revealed that as infants grow older, in Bowlby’s 4th and 5th stages, attachment relationships become less dependent on physical proximity and overt behaviour, and more dependent on abstract qualities of the relationship such as affection, trust, approval, internalised in the child and also in the adult.

Research has revealed that it is useful to think of internal representations of the relationship in the child’s mind; the child is thought of as having an internal working model of his or her relationship with the mother, and with other attachment figures (Bowlby, 1988; Main et al., 1985). These are characterised as cognitive structures embodying the memories of day-to-day interactions with the attachment figure. They may be ‘schemas’ or ‘event scripts’ that guide the child’s action with the attachment figure, based on their previous interactions and the expectations and affective experiences associated with them.

Different attachment type would be expected to have differing working models of the relationship. Secure (Type B) attachment would be based on models of trust and affection [and a Type B infant would be able to communicate openly and directly about attachment-related circumstances, such as how they felt if left alone for a while]. By contrast, a boy or girl with an Insecure Avoidant (Type A) attachment may have an internal model of his/her mother that leaves the child without any expectancy of secure comforting from the latter when he/she is distressed [the mother may in fact reject his/her approaches]. The child’s action rules then become focused on avoiding her, thus inhibiting approaches to her that could be ineffective and instead lead to further distress; and this can be problematic, as there is less open communication between mother and son, and their respective internal working models of each other are not being accurately updated.

Insecure Resistant / Ambivalent (Type C) infants might not know what to expect from their mother, and they in turn would be inconsistent in their communication with the latter and often unable to convey their intent.

PF - Boy by Land Rover - from Separation Anxiety Test

PICTURE F. Boy by Land Rover: A picture from the Separation Anxiety Test

Over the last 15 years, researchers have attempted to measure attachment quality in older children [as much as the empirical methods allowed them to do in terms of construct validity and internal consistency], by trying to tap in to their internal working models (Stevenson-Hinde and Verschueren, 2002). One of the methods used involved narrative tasks, often using doll-play; children use a doll family and some props and complete a set of standardised attachment related story beginnings. Another method used has been the Separation Anxiety Test, in which children or adolescents respond to photographs showing separation experiences [see Picture G for an example]. The child is questioned about how the child in the photograph would “feel and act”, and then how he/she [the participating child] would feel and act if in that situation (Main et al., 1985). This test was found to have a good rater reliability and consistency for 8 to 12-year-olds. Large differences in responses between children having clinical treatment for behaviour disturbance and a normal control group was found (See Table B)

TB - Two Protocols from the Separation Anxiety Test

TABLE B. Two protocols from the Separation Anxiety Test

Securely attached children generally acknowledge the anxiety due to the separation but come up with feasible coping responses; insecurely attached children generally deny the anxiety, or give inappropriate or bizarre coping responses.

 

The Adult Attachment Interview

The internal working models of relationships can normally be updated or modified as new interactions develop. It is likely possibility that for younger children, these changes must be based on actual physical encounters. However, the Main et al. (1985) suggested that in adolescents or adults who have achieved formal operational thinking [Jean Piaget’s 4th and final stage at around the age of 12 as explained in our essay], it is possible to change / modify their internal working models without the need for such direct interaction. In order to measure attachment in older adolescents and adults, they developed the Adult Attachment Interview. This is a semi-structured interview that proves memories of one’s own early childhood experiences. The transcripts are coded, not on the basis of experiences themselves, so much as on how the person reflects on and evaluate them, and how coherent total account is [Adults’ attachment classifications are not based on the nature of their actual childhood experiences, but on the way they represent these experiences, be they good or bad]. They are also generally asked to describe their childhood relationships with mother and father, and to recall times when they were separated from their parents or felt upset or rejected. There are specific questions that also deal with experiences of loss and abuse. According to their responses during the AAI, Allsopp placed into one of the 4 attachment categories: (i) Autononous, (ii) Dismissing, (iii) Preoccupied [Or Enmeshed] and (iv) Unresolved

 

(i) Autonomous Attachment

Autonomous adults are able to give coherent, well-balanced accounts of their attachment experiences, showing clear valuing of close personal and meaningful relationships [note meaningful subjectively to the individual]. These adults classified as autonomous may have experience problems in childhood, or even had a very difficult or abusive upbringings, but they can generally have an open conversation and talk openly about the negative experiences and most seem to have managed to resolve any early difficulties and conflicts. In contrast to the open and balanced way in which autonomous adults talk about childhood experiences, adults in the remaining three categories have incredible difficulties in talking about attachment relationships.

 

 (ii) Dismissing Attachment

Dismissing adults deny the importance of attachment experiences and insist they cannot recall childhood events and emotions, or provide idealised representations of the attachment relationship that they are unable to corroborate the real-life events. [i.e. dismiss attachment relationship as of little importance, concern or influence

 

(iii) Preoccupied [or Enmeshed] Attachment

Preoccupied adults lack the ability to move on from the childhood experiences, and are still overinvolved with issues relating to the early attachment relationship [generally preoccupied with dependency on their own parents and still struggle to please them].

 

(iv) Unresolved Attachment

The final category is reserved for adults who are unable to resolve feelings relating to the death of a loved one or to abuse they may have suffered [people who have not come to terms with a traumatic experience, or work through the mourning process]

It is to be noted that, people from lower socio-economic groups are slightly more likely to score as Dismissing. However the large difference is in people receiving clinical treat, the great majority of whom do not score as Autonomous on the AAI.

 

Are attachments stable over time? From Infancy to Adult Attachment Type

The main question should be asking ourselves is does the security of attachment change the life, or does infant-parent attachment set the pattern not only for later attachment in childhood, but even for one’s own future parenting? As attachment has become lifespan construct, these questions have generated considerable research and debate.

Many studies have now spanned a period of some 20 years to examine whether strange situation classification in infancy predicts Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) classification as young adults (Lewis et al., 2000; Waters et al., 2000). The outcome is varied, but some of these studies have found significant continuity of the 3 main attachment types; that is, from Secure to Autonomous; Avoidant to Dismissive, and Resistant (Ambivalent) to Enmeshed. Several studies have also found relationships between discontinuities in attachment classification, and negative life events such as the experience of parent divorce.

 

Relationship between Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) and Infant-Parent Attachments

Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) and classifications have been found to relate systematically to the security of the infant-parent attachment relationship. Autonomous parents are more likely to have securely attached infants, and parents in the 3 non-autonomous group. Dismissing, Preoccupied and Unresolved are much more likely to form insecure attachment relationships with their infants. This relationship has been identified for both patterns of infant-mother (e.g. Fonagy et al., 1991; Levine et al., 1991) and infant-father (Steele et al., 1996) attachment. Furthermore, unresolved maternal AAI classification has been identified as a predictor of insecure-disorganised attachment (Main & Hesse, 1990; van Ijzendoorn, 1995). Thus, the way in which a parent represents their own childhood attachment experiences is related to the types of relationship formed with their children.

 

Are attachment stable over generations?

On top of the degree of continuity over time for an individual’s attachment typing, there is also evidence for the transmission of attachment type across generations; specially from the parent’s AAI (Adult Attachment Interview) Coding and their infant’s strange situation coding. Main et al. (1985) had reported some evidence for such a link, and indeed the AAI coding system is based on it; it was argued that Autonomous adults would end up with Secure infants; Dismissing adults with Avoidant infants, Enmeshed adults with Resistant (Ambivalent) infants; and Unresolved adults would have Disorganised infants. [See Table C].

TC - Hypothesized relationships between maternal stage of mind (AAI), maternal behaviour, and child attachment type

TABLE C. Hypothesised relationships between maternal stage of mind (from the AAI – Adult Attachment Interview), maternal behaviour, and child attachment type

Van Ijzendoorn (1995) looked at a large number of available studies in the decade since Main’s work and found considerable linkage between adult AAI (Adult Attachment Interview) and infant Strange Situation coding; Van Ijzendoorn argued that this “intergenerational transmission” of attachment may be via parent responsiveness and sensitivity. We discussed above how this is only a partial explanation, and other aspects of maternal behaviour and of the home environment may also be involved.

We have considerable evidence for some degree of continuity of attachment security through life, and onto the next generation; but considerable evidence that this can be affected by life events. An adult’s attachment security can also be influenced by counselling, clinical treatment, or simply by reflection [self mind-mindedness].

Some insight into this matter comes from a study by Fonagy et al. (1994). In a longitudinal study with 100 mothers and 100 fathers in London, who are given the AAI and other measures shortly before their child was born. The strange situation was used subsequently to measure security of attachment, to mother at 12 months and the father at 18 months. As many other studies have discovered, the parent’s AAI scores predicted the Strange Situation scores of the infants. The researchers also calculated the estimates of the amount of disrupted parenting and deprivation which the parents had experienced themselves, and use the measures to find out if these influenced infant attachment, which they did. However, the amount of disrupted parenting and deprivation the parents had experienced interacted strongly with the way in which the parents had dealt with their own representations of their experiences of being parented. Coding the AAI (Adult Attachment Interview), the researchers developed a Reflective Self-function scale to assess the ability parents had to reflect on conscious and unconscious psychological states, and conflicting beliefs and desires. Of 17 mothers with deprived parenting and low reflecting self-function scores, 16 had insecurely attached infants, as might have been expected. Completely opposite to this scenario 10 mothers who had experienced deprived but had high reflective self-function scores, all had securely infants. It was argued that reflective self-function could have the saliency to change the internal working models of people, and also demonstrate resilience to adversity and a way of breaking the inter-generational transmission of insecure attachment.

Adults who experienced difficult childhoods but have overcome early adversity and insecure attachment by a process of reflection, counselling or clinical help, are known as “earned secures”, and could be distinguished from “continuous secures”, who had a positive upbringing and what most might quality as “normal” childhood. Phelps et al. (1998) made home observations of mothers and their 27-month-old children, and found that earned-secures, like continuous secures, showed positive parenting; under conditions of stress, both these groups showed more positive parenting than insecure mothers.

Another fascinating perspective on this issue of inter-generational transmission of insecure attachments would be the Holocaust study (Bar-On et al., 1998; van Ijzendoorn et al., 1999). The Holocaust refers to the experiences of Jews and other persecuted unwanted & unassimilated minorities [who did not want to be Germans] in the concentration camps of World War II to be securely offloaded/deported when Adolf Hitler’s Germany became the Third Reich and when the policies changed to focus on National Socialism and Imperial Intentions of Expansion and Conquest (1939-45).

LittleJewsToBeSentBack

Jew Children: Here we see Jew school children in 1942. They look like younger children who are just beginning school. Notice that at least 2 teachers are with them. By this time the Jewish children had been forced out of public schools. For a short time however, they we allowed to attend schools set up by the Jewish community. At the time this photograph was taken, the transports to the deportation camps had already begun. Often children under 10-years of age were not required to wear the badges, but some of these children look much younger.

Although many revisionist such as the English historian, David Irving, of this dark part of human history are finding out inaccuracies regarding the true people responsible for those massacres [since no evidence has been found of Hitler giving any extermination order] along with other atrocities as evil if not worse than the deaths in concentration camps [for a section of a population that was causing instability to the proper functioning of a nation during times of revolt and huge global conflicts involving economic treaties, Jewish propaganda and ultra-liberal communist migration agendas fused with policies based on business & banking motives] committed by many of the “supposed good guys of the Allies” that involved the rape and murder of innocent children and women, fuelled by pure hate, Bolshevism and Jewish Communism against the native aryans of Germany [i.e. the German Volk/People].

A documentary extract from the diary of Dr. Joseph Goebbels who decided to take a firm stance against the national destruction of Germany (and Western Europe), Christianity, and whom many Nationally oriented thinkers consider to be among the bravest of the last great Christian Aryan men to have walked the earth. [See Aryan Race et aussi Race Aryenne / Also to be noted perhaps quite surprisingly that there were strong ancient Aryan religious & mythological warrior values embedded in the mind of Heinrich Himmler (the Reichsführer of the SS), the person believed to have taken the decision to exterminate the jews (remember the term itself originated from human sacrifices by Jews to their god, Baal), as he told his personal masseur & physician Felix Kersten that he always carried with him a copy of the ancient Aryan scripture, the Bhagavad Gita because it relieved him of guilt about what he was doing – he felt that like the sacred warrior Arjuna, who was simply doing his duty for his people and their future without attachment to his actions]

But, since the majority on this planet have been made to believe one version where all the Jews and the alien army of the allies are the good guys, and all the Germans [including Adolf Hitler] were the blood-sucking vampires who also turned into cannibals on the week ends, we are going to base our comments on this politically correct version that the history books and mainstream publishers prefer. [Politics too nowadays is in serious need of revision; are people really divided into 3 main categories? Left, Centre and Right? I tend to believe that we are above all this and have elements of all 3 embedded in us as modern human beings of the 21st century]

But getting back to the Bedouin cultured civilisation’s distinguished members, i.e. Jews as an example of victims in those concentration camps [that many people have begun to question the evidence used to claims of gas chambers (with a great amount found on territories occupied by Stalin) with many camp detainees reporting being kept in facilities with swimming pools, orchestras and kitchens, the number of casualties, and the true perpetrator of the crimes]. It is believed by most people of the 21st century who have had no other options but to take in their news from mainstream Jewish-owned media, that besides being treated like despicable rats, degraded and tortured, many of the Jews to be deported kept in those camps were killed [some shot like parasitic animals as they tried to escape], leaving behind them orphaned children in traumatic circumstances.

Our question here however in regards to the focal point of this section, i.e. “insecure attachments”, is whether such traumatic experiences could have an impact on attachment, and could this also have been transmitted inter-generationally to the Jewish children scattered around the globe today like modern gypsies? This issue of inter-generational transmission of insecure attachments is the focus of the Holocaust study (Bar-On et al., 1998; van Ijzendoorn et al., 1999). The study we are looking at encompasses 3 generations of Jews, now grandparents, who went through the Holocaust [note that the name Holocaust itself comes from an event involving human sacrifices to the Jewish god, Baal], typically as children themselves who had lost their parents; their children, now parents; and their grandchildren. These generations are compared here with comparable 3-generation families who had not experienced the Holocaust.

It was found that the effects of the Holocaust were evident in the grandparent generations, who showed distinctive patterns on the AAI (Adult Attachment Interview), scoring high on Unresolved, as would have been predicted, and high on unusual beliefs – another predicted effect of trauma and unresolved attachment issues. They also displayed avoidance of the Holocaust topic; a very common finding was that the experiences had been so horrific and disgusting that they were unable to talk about their experiences with their own offspring.

However, inter-generational transmission of attachment type was quite low for this group of Jews. The Holocaust parents (‘children of the Holocaust’) showed rather small differences from controls, scoring just slightly higher on Unresolved on the AAI. This normalization process continued to the next generation (‘grandchildren of the Holocaust’), for whom no significant differences in attachment were found from controls. This seems to suggest a minor trend of  “Unresolved” attachment among these Jews [note that this is linked to Disorganised attachment in infants and today some question whether Type-B Securely attached infants are really the “Best” way to be, and whether other personality characteristics also help shape the individual’s uniqueness throughout life, such as their reflective abilities and internal working models (reshaped by other meaningful events/relationships) – however it is also important to note that attachment types are known to remain and be transmitted over generations for the majority of people with low self-reflective skills and intelligence].

 

Disorganised Attachment and Unresolved Attachment Representation

The pattern of infant attachment classed as “Disorganised” from the Strange Situation procedure, was only acknowledged much later than the other well known attachment types [Secure, Inscure Avoidant & Insecure Resistant/Ambivalent], and appears to have rather distinctive correlates.

It has been noted that Disorganised infants may show stereotypic behaviours such as freezing, or hair-pulling; contradictory behaviour such as avoiding the caregiver [e.g. mother] despite experiencing severe distress on separation; and also misdirected behaviour such as seeking proximity to the stranger instead of the caregiver. These characteristic behaviours are known as signs of Unresolved stress and anxiety, and for these types of infants the caregiver is a source of fright rather than a symbol of safety (See Table C) – (see Vondra and Barnett, 1999, for a collection of recent research).

Van Ijzendoorn, Schuengel and Bakermans-Kranenburg (1999) reviewed a series of studies on Disorganized attachment, and argued that it was mainly caused by environmental factors [i.e. exposure]; although there is also some evidence for genetic factors in Disorganised infant attachment, and it is known to be higher in infants with severe neurological abnormalities [e.g. cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s syndrome] – around 35%, compared with around 15% in normal samples. However, Type-D (Disorganised Attachment) is also especially for mothers with alcohol or drug abuse problems (43%) or who have maltreated or abused their infants (48%). Type-D attachment is not higher in infants with physical disabilities; and it is not strongly related to maternal sensitivity as such, however there is evidence relating it to maternal unresolved loss or trauma [like the Jews of the Holocaust generation as mentioned above].

While the Maternal Sensitivity Hypothesis suggests that maternal (in)sensitivity predicts secure (B) or insecure (A,C) attachment, a different hypothesis has been proposed to explain Disorganised Type-D attachment (See Table C), which is that it is would be the result from frightened or frightening behaviour by the caregiver (generally the mother) to the infant, resulting from the mother’s own unresolved mental state related to attachment issues [e.g. abuse by her own parent; violent death of a parent/or close one; sudden loss of a child].

A study in London by Hughes et al. (2001) compared the Unresolved scores on the AAI (Adult Attachment Interview) for 53 mothers who had infants born next after still birth, with 53 controls [normal mothers], and found out that among the mothers who had previously stillborn infants, 58% scored as Unresolved, compared to 8% of Controls; furthermore, 36% had Disorganised (Type D) infants, compared with 13% of controls. A statistical path analysis [looking at the relationships among all the variables showed that the stillbirth experience predicted Unresolved maternal state of mind, and that it was this variable [i.e. Unresolved state of mind] then predicted infant disorganisation.

The hypothesised behavioural aspects of maternal unresolved state of mind [and Disorganisation in infants] were supported by the study in Mali reported above. A study in Germany by Jacobsen et al. (2000) provided further support in which 33 children were examined along with their mothers at 6 years of age. Disorganised attachment (assessed from a reunion episode) was significantly related to high levels of maternal expressed emotion, defined as speech to the child that was severely critical of them or over-involved with them.

Van Ijzendoorn et al., (1999), in a review, also found that insecure Disorganised (Type D) attachment in infants predicted later aggressive behaviour, and child psychopathology. Carlson (1998) found significant prediction from attachment disorganisation at 24 and 42 months, to child behaviour problems in preschool, elementary school and high school. Taking into consideration the prior links to parental maltreatment and abuse, it is highly likely that the Disorganised (Type D) attachment type will be found to be the most relevant aspect of attachment in understanding severely maladaptative or antisocial behaviour in later life.

 

Origins of the Insecure Disorganised State of Mind

The origins of insecure-disorganised (Type D) attachment is becoming an increasingly researched topic, and this may be due to the fact that early disorganisation (Type D) has been identified as a risk factor for later psychopathology (Fearon et al., 2010; van Ijzendoorn et al., 1999), with studies identifying a link between insecure-disorganised attachment in infancy and behavioural problems in later childhood (Lyons-Ruth et al., 1993; Munson et al., 2001; Shaw et al., 1996).

In Main and Hesse’s (1990; Hesse & Main, 2000) their seminal work led to the argument that these insecure-disorganised (Type D) infants have not been able to establish an organised pattern of attachment because they have been frightened by the caregivers or have experienced their caregivers themselves showing fearful behaviour. This is supported by findings that have linked insecure-disorganised attachment to infant maltreatment or hostile caregiving (Carlson, Cicchetti, Brnett & Braunwald, 1989; Lyons-Ruth et al., 1991), maternal depression (Radke-Yarrow et al., 1995), and maternal histories of loss through separation, divorce and death (Lyons-Ruth et al., 1991).

In a meta-analytic review however, van Ijzendoorn et al. (1999) reported that 15% of infants in non-clinical middle class American samples are classified as insecure-disorganised (Type D), suggesting that pathological parenting practices cannot fully account for disorganised attachment in infants. As highlighted by Bernier and Mains (2008), the origins of attachment disorganisation are very complex, involving factors ranging from infants’ genetic make up to parents’ experiences of loss or abuse, and much remains to be learned about why some infants are unable to form and organised attachment relationship with the caregiver.

 

Links between Attachment & Emotional Development

It is fundamental to understand and grasp the importance of the early stages of life, as the brain’s cognitive patterns are shaped by these early experiences that tend to have a lasting effect on personality. The infant’s earliest mode of exploring and engaging with the world revolves around conveying emotions: fear, discomfort, pain, contentment, happiness.

As we have already explained above in the section exploring the reasons why infants develop particular attachment types, the caregiver’s responses [not sensitivity, but mind-mindedness, i.e. the ability to respond “appropriately” to the cues] to such emotional cues and their representations of their own childhood emotional experiences [generally measured with the AAI for Autonomous, Dismissing, Preoccupied or Unresolved] are accepted as strong predictors of attachment security [i.e. Autonomous – Secure, Dismissing –Avoidant, Preoccupied- Resistant and Unresolved – Disorganised].

With this in mind, it is quite surprising that so little research has been conducted on the relation between security and children’s emotional development.

There are 2 main ways in which links between attachment and emotional development have been addressed:

(i) The research has investigated whether infants’ early emotional experiences predict attachment security

(ii) The researchers have explored whether the security of the infant-caregiver attachment relationship predicts children’s subsequent emotional development.

 

Emotional Regulation and Attachment Security

This section is focussed mainly on how caregivers’ ways of responding to the infants’ emotional cues predict later attachment security.

Mothers of insecure-avoidant infants have been found to withdraw when their infants express negative emotions (Escher-Graeub & Grossmann, 1983). Conversely, mothers of insecure-resistant infants typically find it difficult to comfort their infants effectively, meaning that their responses result in prolonging their infants’ feelings of distress (Ainsworth et al., 1978).

Cassidy (1994) argued that caregivers may enable their children to develop good emotional coping and regulation strategies through their willingness to acknowledge and respond to their children’s emotions. She also argued that secure attachment is characterised by the openness with which the caregiver [mother, father, etc] recognises and discusses the full spectrum of emotions [which leads to the child’s understanding that emotions should not be supressed and can be dealt with effectively]. Insecure-avoidant attachment is generally associated with caregivers failing to respond to their infants’ negative emotions because of their tendency to bias interactions in favour of positive emotional expressions. On the opposite, insecure-resistant attachment is associated with the caregiver amplifying the infant’s negative affect. Cassidy maintained that mothers of insecure-resistant children fail to emphasise the importance of attachment relationships, and therefore adopt strategies that fail to help the child regulate negative emotion, hence, prolonging the need for contact with the mother [or caregiver].

 

Affect Attunement

Cassidy’s views are in synchronisation with other theoretical positions, such as Stern’s (1985) characterisation of sensitive parenting in terms of effect attunement, with the sensitive mother being the type of human being who is attuned to all of her infant’s emotions, is also accepting and sharing in their affective content.

Insensitive mothers on the other hand, undermatch or overmatch their infants’ emotional signals because of their own perceptual biases.

In support of these approaches, Pauli-Pott and Mertesacker’s (2009) investigation revealed that mismatches between maternal and infant affect at 4 months [e.g. mother shows positive affect while her infant demonstrates neutral or negative affect] predicted insecure mother-infant attachment at 18 months. Mind-mindedness is also operationalised in terms of the caregiver’s tendency to accurately interpret the infant’s cognitions and emotions, and has been found to predict later attachment security (Meins er al., 2001). Thus, observations by a mother of her infant displaying surprise in response to a jack-in-the-box, followed by enigmatic comments such as “my infant is surprised” are associated with subsequent secure attachment. In contrast, insecure attachment is related to mothers misreading their infants’ internal stress by, for example, commenting that the infant is scared when no cue to suggest such an emotion is present in the infant’s overt behaviour. In more recent work it has been found that these inappropriate mind-related comments are particularly common in mothers of insecure-resistant infants, with mothers in this group being more likely to comment inappropriately on their infants’ thoughts and feelings than their counterparts in the secure, insecure-avoidant and insecure-disorganised groups.

Evidence suggests that mothers in the insecure-avoidant and insecure-resistant groups are aware of over-controlling and under controlling strategies respectively in coping with their children’s negative emotions. Berlin and Cassidy (2003) followed up a sample of infants who had been assessed in the strange situation in infancy, and questioned the mothers when the children were aged 3 about how they dealt with their child’s emotional expressive, and found that insecure-Avoidant (Type A) group mothers reported the greatest control of their 3-year-olds’ negative emotional expressiveness [e.g. expression anger or fear], whereas mothers in the insecure-Resistant(Ambivalent – Type C) reported the least control of children of their children’s expressing negative emotions.

These findings suggest that maternal behaviours associated with avoidant and resistant attachment that have been observed in infancy are stable and persist into the preschool years.

Security-related differences in the way in which children regulate their emotions are also in line with Cassidy’s (1994) approach. Spangler and Grossman (1993) took physiological measures of infant distress during the strange situation procedure and compared these measures with infants’ outward shows of upset and negative affect. The physiological measures showed that insecure-Avoidant (Type A) group infants were as distressed or more distressed than their secured group conterparts (Type B), despite the absence of overt behavioural distress observed in the insecure-avoidant (Type A) groups infants. It was therefore concluded by Spangler and Grossman that insecure-Avoidant infants mask or dampen their expression of negative emotions as a way of coping with the facts that caregivers are likely to ignore or reject their bids for contact and comfort when they are distressed.

Belsky, Spritz, and Crnic (1996) reported that 3-year-olds who had been securely attached in infancy were more likely to recall and memorise the positive emotional events that had witnessed on a puppet show, whereas insecurely attached children tended to attend and remember only the negative events. On the same note, Kirsch and Cassidy (1997) found that both secure and insecure-resistant attachment in infancy were associated at 3 years of age with better remembering and recall for a story in which a mother responded sensitively to her child than to a story where the child was rejected.

In contrast to the scenario above, insecure-Avoidant infants showed no difference in their recall of the responsive versus rejecting stories. Kirsch and Cassidy also found that 3-year-olds classified as insecure in infancy were more likely than those in secure groups to look away from drawings depicting “mother” – child engagement.

These findings suggest that the positive experiences of secure infants with their caregivers may result in these children attending more to positive emotional events because they are consistent with their attachment security.

 

__________

 

(III) The Genetic/Psychosexual Model of Development (Sigmund Freud)

“For generations almost every branch of human knowledge will be enriched and illuminated by the imagination of Freud” (Jane Harrison, 1850- 1928)

The Genetic Model of Psychosexual Stages

The genetic model that we are now going to explore may not have much to do with genes, and relates more to the “development” of the child. Sigmund Freud proposed that childhood development proceeds through a series of distinct stages to adulthood, each of them with their own themes and preoccupations.

The stages are based on the life-drive present in all organisms, as Freud proposed, and it seems logical from a physician who carried empirical work on the sexual organs of eels, to assume that all organisms have the embedded urge for “life” [i.e the life drive to keep itself and its species alive, which involves sexual selection and the fertilisation achieved through sex] that is primarily sexual but some also argued that it can be interpreted (unconsciously or consciously) in other forms [as flamboyant French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan proposed in his Theory with the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real] to suit a sophisticated society [e.g. France] with all its dimensions. Freud proposed that the psychosexual stages are understood to be organised around the child’s emerging sexuality.

It is important however to not exaggerate or misinterpret Freud’s assumption and also to remember the logic and vital purpose behind the sexual (life) drive in organisms in its own existence and continuity [breeding]. This is also a very good discussion point for the 21st century as it seems to imply that all healthy organisms should have healthy sexual drives, but whether these should « always » find expression through genital sexual acts with another organism is debatable and questionable from an ethical and moral perspective [especially for those not in a healthy and stable relationship]; hence many psychologists recommend « masturbation » as a healthy and safe alternative in managing excessive sexual desires in both young people and adults.

In the process of the child’s emerging “sexuality”, the term « sexual drive » itself meant more than simply adult genital sexuality, and from a psychological perspective, was broadly referring to a physiological/biological sense of “pleasure in the body” and more to “sensuality”. As many psychologists who based their foundations on some aspects of Freudian perspectives, it is assumed that adult sexuality is nothing more than the simple culmination of an orderly set of steps in which the child’s “psychosexual” focus shifted from one part of the body to another, with these body parts or “erotogenic zones” all having something in common with the generation of pleasure; which are orifices lined with sensitive mucous membranes.

Hence, Sigmund Freud may have adequately proposed in a statement regarding mental health that, “the only unnatural sexual behaviour is none at all.”, taking note once again that the term “sexual” from a psychologist exploring the developmental stages of a child generally tends to refer more to “sensuality”. The erotogenic body parts with orifices and sensitive mucous membranes leads to the infant sensuality being initially centred on the mouth (oral cavity), followed by the anus and then the genitals in early childhood. After some characteristic drama at about the age of 5, the child’s sexuality goes nearly completely dormant for a few years, before re-emerging with a vengeance [a rush of hardly managed sexual feelings] when puberty hits.

As the tradition on the debate of the development of the mind itself as an entity [that reflects in linguistic form the desires, both conscious and unconscious of the human organism] goes on among psychologists in the quest for these answers, we are also familiar with critics [mostly from the reductionist schools of thoughts (e.g. Pavlovian) such as the cognitive-behavioural enthusiasts and the medical department with its accolade, the pharmaceutical industry] who have not been entirely positive about Freud’s contribution to knowledge and are still unconvinced [perhaps due to their philosophy on a kind of methodological epistemology that is lacking to cope with matters of the mind] about the unconscious part of the mind that plays a huge role in our conscious behaviour. This may not be completely negative to intellectuals who subscribe to a version of reality that is embedded in language since critics in many cases have led to systematic investigations [scientific methodology] and until now there is an increasing body of evidence that points to the existence of an unconscious drift/urge/motive that exists in all organisms [e.g. as we noted in the essay about Biological Constraints in Learning by Operant Conditioning and also other studies carried out on priming along with observations of the symptomatic manifestations of certain mental disorders such as OCD and Panic Attacks].

The psychoanalytic theory has been modified by some of the best minds of the psychoanalytic tradition [e.g. Jung, Lacan, and some components adopted by ourselves in the conception of the model of mental life within the Organic Theory] since Freud left the questions open with the freedom of dialogue over the concepts and their expansions and applications throughout various dimensions [e.g. analysing qualitative subjective experiences of the expression of love and passion, or the obsoleteness of politics in modern society, or the impact of animal studies in designing a human world]. However, between all the versions of Freud’s theories, there are 3 components that have never been denied by any great psychoanalyst, which are the 3 structures first mentioned in the early Topographic Model, that is, the Unconscious, the Subconscious and the Conscious. These were later replaced with the Structural Model, which is the popular version that remapped and renamed the concepts, and which includes the (unconscious) id [present in all new born infants which consists of impulses, emotions & desires – id demands instant gratification of all wishes and needs], the (conscious, me) ego [which acts a mediator between reality and the desires of the id] and the (subconscious) superego [the conscience: the sense of duty & responsibility], that adepts such as Jacques Lacan and Carl Jung rejected over the earlier Topographic model [being one that is more flexible for the development of further refined models that also have the option to define the life force in other ways than the questionable specificity of the Structural Model’s id, ego & superego.

 

The 5 Psychosexual Stages

Stage I: The Oral Stage (from birth to 1 year old approximately)

From Freudian assumptions, it is believed that the voracious sucking of infants is not pure nutritional, although the infant clearly has a basic need to feed, it also takes a “pleasure” in the act of feeding, a feeling that Freud did not hesitate to quality as sexual and perhaps more “sensual” at this stage as babies appear to enjoy the stimulation of the lips [in play] and the oral cavity, and will often happily engage in “non-nutritive sucking” when they are no longer hungry and the milk supply is withdrawn. Beyond being an intense source of bodily pleasure – an early expression of later sexuality – sucking also represents the infant’s way of expressing love for and dependency on its feeder [normally it is the mother, but it can also be a primary caregiver that the child is attached to, hence Lacan proposed that the Oedipal & Electra complexes may not only not be true for ALL cases, but the child’s early sexual feelings may be projected on other primary caregivers and not necessarily the direct parents]. The sucking behaviour also serves to a general stance that the infant takes towards the world, one of “incorporation” or the taking in of new experiences.

 

Stage II: The Anal Stage (1 to 3 years old approximately)

At the second stage, the Anal stage, the focus shifts from one end of the digestive tract to the other at it happens at around the age of 2, when the child is developing an increasing degree of autonomous control over its muscles, including the sphincters that control excretion. After the incorporative passivity and dependency of the oral stage, the child begins to take a more active approach to life [note the term active also in line with Jean Piaget’s views on the development of the human child]. Sigmund Freud proposed that these themes of activity, autonomy and control, play out most crucially around the anus as the child learns to control defecation, and learns that it can control its direct external environment, in particular its caregivers attention, by expelling or withholding faeces. Moreover, the child takes a sort of sadistic pleasure in this control, a form of pleasure described as “Anal erotism”. An important conflict for the child during this stage involves toilet training, with struggles/disapproval taking place over the parents/caregivers demand that the child control its defecation according to particular rules. However, the anal stage represents a set of themes, struggles, pleasures, and preoccupations that cannot be reduced in any simple way to toilet-training, as many common psychology students from the wrong linguistic vein are in caricatures of Freud maybe in a defensive act for their lack of linguistic subtlety to understand the mental life and the models that govern it.

 

Stage III: The Phallic Stage (3 to 6 years old approximately)

Gradually, although still in the early childhood years, the primary location of sexual pleasure and interest shifts from the anus to the genitals, where the little boy starts to become fascinated with his penis and his counterpart on other side of the gender register, the little girl with her clitoris. However, this stage is known as “phallic” and not “genital” because Freud maintained that both sexes were focused on the male organ; “phallus” referring not to the actual physical organ, the anatomical penis, but to its “symbolic value”. Briefly explained, the phallic stage is set as the little boy understanding that he has the penis [which has a symbolic value] which the little girl lacks, and develops the belief that he could possibly lose it. In contrast, the little girl does not have a penis and wishes to have one.

This is the very first time that the difference between the sexes comes into play in childhood development, and the contrast between masculinity and feminity, really becomes an issue for the child. It is also the 1st stage at which Freud’s psychosexual theory recognises sexual differences, and marks the crucial point at which, children become gendered beings [between the ages of 3 – 6].

The little boy’s and the girl’s differing relation to the phallus [remember: the “symbolic value” of it not the actual organ] plays a vital role in unfolding drama that takes place within the family during this stage, somewhere around the age of 3 to 5. It has been dubbed the “Oedipus complex”, after the Greek legend in which Oedipus unwittingly murders his father and marries his mother, his original love-object [remember the attachment period in Bowlby’s along with breastfeeding] after all, as is consequently envious of his father, who seems to have his mother to himself. The boy’s fearful recognition that he could lose his penis [symbolically: “masculinity”] – “castration anxiety” – becomes focussed on the idea that the competing male for the love of the mother[the father], could inflict this punishment on him if the boy’s sexual feelings and desire for the female figure of the caregiving mother is recognised. So, faced with fear, he renounces and represses the sexual feelings and desire, to instead identity with the father, becoming his imitator rather than his rival. In this process, the boy learns about masculinity and internalises the societal rules and norms [e.g. about relationships] that the father represents [the development of the Super-Ego, a sense of duty and responsibility, i.e. “conscience” takes place as the Structural Model suggests].

In the case of the little girl, matters are slightly different, and the developing child soon feels her lack of a penis keenly (“penis envy”) and blames the mother for leaving her so grievously unequipped, and then the father soon turns into her primary love-object [the “Electra Complex” appears as the opposite of the “Oedipus” Complex], and the mother her rival.

A similar process to the little boy now takes place in the little girl’s realm, resulting in the repression of her sexual feeling, desires and love, to shift to an identification with her mother, and hence with feminity. However, given that the girl is not under any “castration” threat, this process occurs under much less emotional pressure than in the little boy’s case. Consequently, perhaps due to this difference in emotional pressure, Freud proposed that the Electra complex was resolved less conclusively and with much less complete repression in girls than in boys, but also that girls tend to internalise a conscience [preconscious, or superego] that is in some ways weaker and less prohibitive and punitive than boys. It is not surprising that such a controversial claim about girls has been highly criticised specially with no scientific evidence to back it up; and is perhaps also one reason why Freud’s account of Oedipal [Electra complex] conflict in women has been the subject of much revision [e.g. by Jacques Lacan].

 

Stage IV: Latency (6 years old to puberty)

After the upheavals of the Oedipus and Electra complexes, the sexual drives go into a prolonged “semi-hibernation”. During the pre-pubertal school years, children engage in much less sexual activity and their relationships with others are also desexualised. Instead of desiring the primary caregivers and original love-objects, their parents, children now begin to identify with them – having structured their understanding of the world. However, this sudden interruption of childhood sexuality is largely a result of the massive repression of sexual feelings that concluded the phallic stage. One of the main consequence of this repression is that children come to completely forget their earlier sexual feelings, a major source [Freud claimed] of our general amnesia for early childhood experiences. Other institutional settings with their own social models such as formal schooling, reinforce the repression of sexuality during latency, leading children to focus their energies instead on mastering “culturally valued” knowledge and skills. Freud observed that the desexualisation of latency-age children was less complete among so-called “primitive” peoples.

 

Stage V: The Genital Stage (from the onset of puberty to death)

The latency period of forced or socially imposed sexual repression ends with the biologically-driven surge of sexual energy that accompanies puberty. This marks the final stage of psychosexual development where it all the previous stages were successfully completed, leaves the person with the ability for mature love with sexual feelings. It is important to note that the focus on sexual pleasure is once more shifted to the genitals as it was before the stage of latency [during the phallic stage (3 – 6 years old)] however, now it is fused with the ability for sensible and true affection for the object of desire [and not simply immature sexual feelings trying to find expression from an inadequately developed brain being projected at the easiest accessible caregiver].

In addition, both sexes are now invested in their own genitals rather than sharing a focus on the “symbolic value” of the penis as it occurred during the “Phallic stage”. The Genital Stage therefore marks the end of the “polymorphous perversity” of childhood sexuality. However, these erotic moments have not completely vanished but are instead subordinated to genital sexuality, often finding expression in other subtle ways [e.g. sexual foreplay].

According to the genetic model of psychosexual stages, we pass through each of the psychosexual stages on the way to maturity. However, we do not pass through them unscathed, and there are many ways in which people have problematic difficulties in particular stages [unable to progress successfully] and when such incidents happen a “fixation” develops. A fixation is simply an unresolved difficulty involving the characteristic issues of the particular stage, and leads to a fault-line in our personality, according to Freudian developmental perspectives.

If the individual failed to receive proper and reliable nurturance and gratification during the oral stage – or alternatively if they were over-indulged – a fixation on that stage may develop. It is believed that when a person is confronted with some forms of stresses, they may revert to the typical immature ways of dealing with the world of that period [at the particular point in time of that stage], this process was referred to as “regression” by Freud.

In some cases, fixations may lead to full-fledged mental disorders: Oral fixations are linked to depression and addictions, anal fixations to obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phallic fixations to hysteria [in severe cases]. Fixations [generally later countered by Reaction Formation] do not simply represent forms of behaviour and thinking that people regress to when faced with difficulties but the whole personality [thought structure] or “character” – the term Freud preferred – may be organised around the themes of the stage at which the person is most strongly fixated. As a result, Freud proposed a set of distinct stage-based character types:

(i) Oral Characters

This category of characters tend to be marked by passivity and dependency [think of the sheep metaphor], and are liable to use relatively immature ego defences such as denial.

(ii) Anal Characters

Anal people tend to be inflexible, stingy, obstinate and orderly, with a preference for defence mechanisms such as the isolation of affect [hide their feelings] and reaction formation.

(iii) Phallic Characters

Phallic characters are generally impulsive, vain and headstrong [think alpha-male prototype] with a preference for a defensive style that favours repression.

It is important to note that this 3-part typology is the closest that the psychoanalytic theory of personality comes to bringing forward an explanation for individual differences in personality from early childhood experiences. A phase of development pivotal to the other 2 mentioned theories which also attribute the foundations of fundamental structures to the period of infancy and childhood, although they all also acknowledge the individual’s ability to shape their own minds and correct their own problematic traits through reflection, and indeed as mentioned in the section on John Bowlby’s theory of attachment mothers with high reflective abilities were able to reshape the internal working models of their children’s attachment style and subsequent emotional development. It is to also be noted how all these 3 theorists although different in their perspectives, have been inspired by each other’s works, the idea of attachment itself was inspired by Freud’s pre-oedipal claims, and Jean Piaget like Sigmund Freud came from the school of thought that viewed the mind as an “active” entity in its development and creation, and not a “passive” entity generated by a ball of soft matter acting like a junction box with scripts for stimuli.

 

Psychoanalysis, then and now

One of the main claims of Freudian theory is that much of what motivates us to move forward in life is determined by the unconscious, and since by the reductionist mind state of the common researcher who sadly only had empiricism to dream of a better life for himself, these unconscious processes cannot be measured [such as moles, weight, fingers, teeth, sheep, cattle, etc], and hence it is often claimed [without much understanding or linguistic abilities or skills in discourse and philosophy] that belief in Freudian ideas is precisely that – beliefs rather than mechanical models based on empirical evidence [e.g. medicine, physics, surgery, chemistry, biology, etc – all the disciplines of the hard sciences].

However, while Freud’s views are almost impossible to test with reductionist quantitative methods, his theories and claims have influenced many psychologists who work with different methodologies and the unconscious processes of the brain are also being backed up by emerging fields that focus on the physiology of the brain [e.g. cognitive-neuroscience].

To illustrate one of those views that are hard to test empirically, consider the Freudian notion of “Reaction Formation”. It is assumed for example that if an individual is harshly [by strict parents] toilet trained as a child then the Freudian prediction would be that the person becomes “anally retentive” [i.e. excessively neat and tidy]. However, if in some ways we do recognise such tendencies in ourselves [once again prompting to the existence of a well developed with reflective and perspective taking abilities fully developed by Piaget’s standards], maybe even unconsciously, then we may react against it [Reaction Formation occurs] and we actively become very untidy.

This suggests that we are in control of ourselves and we have the ability to reverse the effects of our upbringing and early childhood experiences, which means in turn that it is impossible to predict a child’s development despite the fact that the first 6 years from birth are supposedly critical in determining later personality formation [self-reflective people save themselves from the mediocrity of the masses].

Freudian Theory has been of immense importance in pointing out 2 possibilities. One is that early childhood can be immensely important in affecting and determining later development [a position also adopted by other major theorists as we have seen such as Bowlby], and the other is that we can be driven by unconscious needs and desires which we are not aware of [until exposed to the right environmental stimuli that release them from their hidden depths]. Thus, it is assumed that if we not complete one of the childhood psychosexual stages very well, it could reflect itself later in adult disorders such as neurotic symptoms, but we would not be aware of the source or cause of the problem. The only way to come to terms with these deeply embedded problems in the depth of the individual’s psyche that has more saliency than the minor cognitive schemas for basic environmental interactions [e.g. making a cup of tea or a sandwich], is through close intensive sessions of psychoanalysis (see Picture G) in which the analyst peers into the unconscious to try and unravel [discover] the problems that occurred during the patient’s childhood development that is causing the current problems.

PG Psychoanalyst tries to discover what went wrong in your childhood that is causing your current problems

PICTURE G. The psychoanalyst tries to uncover the childhood unresolved issues to find the causes of the current problems.

Whatever its weaknesses are, the psychoanalytic theory remains the most complete theory in terms of depth and detail in capturing the essence of the human mind [soul as metaphor, or psyche], and today there are still many who believe that psychoanalytic theories are fundamental in understanding human development with many theoreticians who have brought forward variations and alternatives to Freud’s proposals on some controversial issues [e.g. Jacques Lacan, John Bowlby and Carl Jung] while many of his proposals have also lead to the scientific discovery of unconscious mental processes.

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Bibliography

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7 réflexions sur “Essay // Developmental Psychology: The 3 Major Theories of Childhood Development

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    Kovess-Masfety, V., Keyes, K., Hamilton, A., Hanson, G., Bitfoi, A., Golitz, D., Koç, C., Kuijpers, R., Lesinskiene, S., Mihova, Z., Otten, R., Fermanian, C. and Pez, O. (2016). Is time spent playing video games associated with mental health, cognitive and social skills in young children?. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 51(3), pp.349-357.

    Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-016-1179-6/fulltext.html

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    10-Year-Old Credits ‘Mario Kart’ For Helping Him Save His Grandma’s Life

    Extract:

    Sanders’ 74-year-old grandmother reportedly lost consciousness mid-sentence, possibly suffering from a heart attack.
    Sitting in the front seat, Sanders says he tried to wake his grandmother before finally deciding to take the wheel. “I [wanted to] get us somewhere where we could get out of the way of traffic,” he remarked, explaining his decision to maneuver the car — which was zooming along at a quick 60 mph — into a muddy ditch on the side of the road.
    The little hero credits go-kart racing and the video game “Mario Kart” for his driving skills. “My first thought was actually, ‘Is this a test or what?’” he said of the life-threatening experience.
    Some netizens took to Reddit this week to laud the boy’s quick thinking.
    “The kid was smart enough to distinguish reality from the game, but still use the skill he earned in the game to the benefit of everyone involved,” Redditor Cptawesome13 wrote on Wednesday…

    Full Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/mario-kart-saves-lives-gryffin-sanders_n_3689790.html

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    « Le Vent Nous Portera » by Noir Désir / Album: Des Visages Des Figures (2001)

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    Music Training for the Development of Speech Segmentation

    The role of music training in fostering brain plasticity and developing high cognitive skills, notably linguistic abilities, is of great interest from both a scientific and a societal perspective. Here, we report results of a longitudinal study over 2 years using both behavioral and electrophysiological measures and a test-training-retest procedure to examine the influence of music training on speech segmentation in 8-year-old children. Children were pseudo-randomly assigned to either music or painting training and were tested on their ability to extract meaningless words from a continuous flow of nonsense syllables. While no between-group differences were found before training, both behavioral and electrophysiological measures showed improved speech segmentation skills across testing sessions for the music group only. These results show that music training directly causes facilitation in speech segmentation, thereby pointing to the importance of music for speech perception and more generally for children’s language development. Finally these results have strong implications for promoting the development of music-based remediation strategies for children with language-based learning impairments.

    Francois, C., Chobert, J., Besson, M. and Schon, D. (2012). Music Training for the Development of Speech Segmentation. Cerebral Cortex, 23(9), pp.2038-2043.

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    Musical Training Influences Linguistic Abilities in 8-Year-Old Children: More Evidence for Brain Plasticity

    Abstract:

    We conducted a longitudinal study with 32 nonmusician children over 9 months to determine 1) whether functional differences between musician and nonmusician children reflect specific predispositions for music or result from musical training and 2) whether musical training improves nonmusical brain functions such as reading and linguistic pitch processing. Event-related brain potentials were recorded while 8-year-old children performed tasks designed to test the hypothesis that musical training improves pitch processing not only in music but also in speech. Following the first testing sessions nonmusician children were pseudorandomly assigned to music or to painting training for 6 months and were tested again after training using the same tests. After musical (but not painting) training, children showed enhanced reading and pitch discrimination abilities in speech. Remarkably, 6 months of musical training thus suffices to significantly improve behavior and to influence the development of neural processes as reflected in specific pattern of brain waves. These results reveal positive transfer from music to speech and highlight the influence of musical training. Finally, they demonstrate brain plasticity in showing that relatively short periods of training have strong consequences on the functional organization of the children’s brain.

    Moreno, S., Marques, C., Santos, A., Santos, M., Castro, S. and Besson, M. (2008). Musical Training Influences Linguistic Abilities in 8-Year-Old Children: More Evidence for Brain Plasticity. Cerebral Cortex, 19(3), pp.712-723.

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    « Savoir Aimer », courtesy of @florentpagny (1997)

    #Society #Culture #Art #Education #World

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    Musical training and empathy (emotional processing) positively impact adults’ sensitivity to infant distress

    Extract:
    Adults’ ability to perceive and respond to crying is important for infant survival and in the provision of care. This study investigated a number of listener variables that might impact on adults’ perception of infant cry distress, namely parental status, musical training and empathy. Sensitivity to infant distress was tested using a previously validated task, which experimentally manipulated distress by varying the pitch of infant cries. Parents with musical training showed a significant advantage on this task when compared with parents without…

    Parsons CE, Young KS, Jegindø E, Vuust P, Stein A and Kringelbach ML (2014). Musical training and empathy positively impact adults’ sensitivity to infant distress. Front. Psychol. 5:1440. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01440

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    Helpful Bouncing Babies Show That Moving Together to Music Builds Bonds [Altruism]

    Link: http://neurosciencenews.com/psychology-bonding-music-babies-movement-1133/

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    Functional Neural Plasticity and Associated Changes in Positive Affect After Compassion Training

    The development of social emotions such as compassion is crucial for successful social interactions as well as for the maintenance of mental and physical health, especially when confronted with distressing life events. Yet, the neural mechanisms supporting the training of these emotions are poorly understood. To study affective plasticity in healthy adults, we measured functional neural and subjective responses to witnessing the distress of others in a newly developed task (Socio-affective Video Task). Participants’ initial empathic responses to the task were accompanied by negative affect and activations in the anterior insula and anterior medial cingulate cortex—a core neural network underlying empathy for pain. Whereas participants reacted with negative affect before training, compassion training increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress. On the neural level, we observed that, compared with a memory control group, compassion training elicited activity in a neural network including the medial orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, pallidum, and ventral tegmental area—brain regions previously associated with positive affect and affiliation. Taken together, these findings suggest that the deliberate cultivation of compassion offers a new coping strategy that fosters positive affect even when confronted with the distress of others.

    Klimecki, O., Leiberg, S., Lamm, C. and Singer, T. (2012). Functional Neural Plasticity and Associated Changes in Positive Affect After Compassion Training. Cerebral Cortex, 23(7), pp.1552-1561.

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    Brain Imaging Reveals Neural Roots of Caring

    Ashar, Y., Andrews-Hanna, J., Dimidjian, S. and Wager, T. (2017). Empathic Care and Distress: Predictive Brain Markers and Dissociable Brain Systems. Neuron.

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    A Hierarchical Watershed Model of Fluid Intelligence in Childhood and Adolescence

    Abstract:

    Fluid intelligence is the capacity to solve novel problems in the absence of task-specific knowledge and is highly predictive of outcomes like educational attainment and psychopathology. Here, we modeled the neurocognitive architecture of fluid intelligence in two cohorts: the Centre for Attention, Leaning and Memory sample (CALM) (N = 551, aged 5–17 years) and the Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute—Rockland Sample (NKI-RS) (N = 335, aged 6–17 years). We used multivariate structural equation modeling to test a preregistered watershed model of fluid intelligence. This model predicts that white matter contributes to intermediate cognitive phenotypes, like working memory and processing speed, which, in turn, contribute to fluid intelligence. We found that this model performed well for both samples and explained large amounts of variance in fluid intelligence (R2CALM = 51.2%, R2NKI-RS = 78.3%). The relationship between cognitive abilities and white matter differed with age, showing a dip in strength around ages 7–12 years. This age effect may reflect a reorganization of the neurocognitive architecture around pre- and early puberty. Overall, these findings highlight that intelligence is part of a complex hierarchical system of partially independent effects.

    Fuhrmann, D., Simpson-Kent, I., Bathelt, J., Holmes, J., Gathercole, S., Astle, D., Manly, T., Kievit, R. and Kievit, R. (2019). A Hierarchical Watershed Model of Fluid Intelligence in Childhood and Adolescence. Cerebral Cortex.

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    Empathy scores reduced in parents of children with autism

    Extract:

    A recent study published in Molecular Autism finds that parents of children with autism fall between typical controls and individuals with autism on tasks measuring performance of empathy skills in a lab-based setting.
    The study, whose contributing authors include department affiliates Carrie Allison, Rosa Hoekstra, and Simon Baron-Cohen, used a factor analysis method that searches for underlying themes in self-report questionnaires and data from behavioural tasks. The authors were interested in examining the relationship between empathy and genetic vulnerability to autism. Adults with autism, parents of individuals with autism, and volunteers from the community participated in the study.

    Empathy, defined here as an important social tool used to understand and predict others’ behaviour, is understood to be impaired in individuals on the autism spectrum. Previous models have indicated that empathy can be broken down into cognitive empathy (the recognition of emotional states in others), emotional empathy (the ability to react to emotional states in others with an appropriate affective response), and more general social skills. Although the precise aetiology of autism spectrum conditions is as of yet unclear, autism is a condition with genetic vulnerability, and there is evidence to suggest that individuals with family members diagnosed with autism may themselves have some mild, sub-clinical levels of autistic traits. These individuals could be identified as having a broader autism phenotype, or BAP…

    Full Article: http://www.psychiatry.cam.ac.uk/blog/2014/08/19/empathy-scores-reduced-parents-children-autism/

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    Abnormal Neural Activation to Faces in the Parents of Children with Autism

    Parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show subtle deficits in aspects of social behavior and face processing, which resemble those seen in ASD, referred to as the “Broad Autism Phenotype ” (BAP). While abnormal activation in ASD has been reported in several brain structures linked to social cognition, little is known regarding patterns in the BAP. We compared autism parents with control parents with no family history of ASD using 2 well-validated face-processing tasks. Results indicated increased activation in the autism parents to faces in the amygdala (AMY) and the fusiform gyrus (FG), 2 core face-processing regions.

    Exploratory analyses revealed hyper-activation of lateral occipital cortex (LOC) bilaterally in autism parents with aloof personality (“BAP+”). Findings suggest that abnormalities of the AMY and FG are related to underlying genetic liability for ASD, whereas abnormalities in the LOC and right FG are more specific to behavioral features of the BAP. Results extend our knowledge of neural circuitry underlying abnormal face processing beyond those previously reported in ASD to individuals with shared genetic liability for autism and a subset of genetically related individuals with the BAP.

    Similar findings emerging in this study suggest that aberrant hyper-activation of the LOC is observed in parents with the aloof phenotype and may be associated with the social/communication behavioral deficits in autism.

    Yucel, G., Belger, A., Bizzell, J., Parlier, M., Adolphs, R. and Piven, J. (2014). Abnormal Neural Activation to Faces in the Parents of Children with Autism. Cereb. Cortex, 25(12), pp.4653-4666.

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    The “Sourpuss” gene: Genes for Emotion-Enhanced Remembering Are Linked to Enhanced Perceiving

    Emotionally enhanced memory and susceptibility to intrusive memories after trauma have been linked to a deletion variant (i.e., a form of a gene in which certain amino acids are missing) of ADRA2B, the gene encoding subtype B of the α2-adrenergic receptor, which influences norepinephrine activity. We examined in 207 participants whether variations in this gene are responsible for individual differences in affective influences on initial encoding that alter perceptual awareness.

    We examined the attentional blink, an attentional impairment during rapid serial visual presentation, for negatively arousing, positively arousing, and neutral target words. Overall, the attentional blink was reduced for emotional targets for ADRA2B-deletion carriers and noncarriers alike, which reveals emotional sparing (i.e., reduction of the attentional impairment for words that are emotionally significant). However, deletion carriers demonstrated a further, more pronounced emotional sparing for negative targets.

    This finding demonstrates a contribution of genetics to individual differences in the emotional subjectivity of perception, which in turn may be linked to biases in later memory.

    Todd, R., Muller, D., Lee, D., Robertson, A., Eaton, T., Freeman, N., Palombo, D., Levine, B. and Anderson, A. (2013). Genes for Emotion-Enhanced Remembering Are Linked to Enhanced Perceiving. Psychological Science, 24(11), pp.2244-2253.

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    Large-scale discovery of novel genetic causes of developmental disorders

    We established a network to recruit 1,133 children (median age 5.5 years, Extended Data Fig. 1a) with diverse, severe undiagnosed developmental disorders, through all 24 regional genetics services of the UK National Health Service and Republic of Ireland. Among the most commonly observed phenotypes (Extended Data Fig. 1b and Supplementary Table 1) were intellectual disability or developmental delay (87% of children), abnormalities revealed by cranial MRI (30%), seizures (24%), and congenital heart defects (11%). These children are predominantly (~90%) of northwest European ancestry (Extended Data Fig. 1c), with 47 pairs of parents (4.1%) exhibiting kinship equivalent to, or in excess of, second cousins (Extended Data Fig. 1d and Supplementary Information).

    In most families (849 of 1,101) the child was the only affected family member, but 111 children had one or more parents with a similar developmental disorder, and 124 had a similarly affected sibling (Supplementary Information). Prior clinical genetic testing would have already diagnosed many children with easily recognized syndromes, or large pathogenic deletions and duplications, enriching this research cohort for less distinct syndromes and novel genetic disorders.

    By studying 1,133 children with severe, undiagnosed developmental disorders, and their parents, using a combination of exome sequencing3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and array-based detection of chromosomal rearrangements, we discovered 12 novel genes associated with developmental disorders. These newly implicated genes increase by 10% (from 28% to 31%) the proportion of children that could be diagnosed. Clustering of missense mutations in six of these newly implicated genes suggests that normal development is being perturbed by an activating or dominant-negative mechanism.

    Our findings demonstrate the value of adopting a comprehensive strategy, both genome-wide and nationwide, to elucidate the underlying causes of rare genetic disorders.

    Article: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v519/n7542/full/nature14135.html

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    Franco-British Chamber| How French families can make British au-pairs [nannies] feel at home

    http://francobritishchamber.com/culture-shock-the-5-biggest-problems-for-the-british-au-pair/

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    Control of voice gender in pre-pubertal children

    Adult listeners are capable of identifying the gender of speakers as young as 4 years old from their voice. In the absence of a clear anatomical dimorphism in the dimensions of pre-pubertal boys’ and girls’ vocal apparatus, the observed gender differences may reflect children’s regulation of their vocal behaviour. A detailed acoustic analysis was conducted of the utterances of 34 6- to 9-year-old children, in their normal voices and also when asked explicitly to speak like a boy or a girl. Results showed statistically significant shifts in fundamental and formant frequency values towards those expected from the sex dimorphism in adult voices. Directions for future research on the role of vocal behaviours in pre-pubertal children’s expression of gender are considered.

    The ‘size-code’ hypothesis (Ohala, 1984), which predicts that callers make a conventionalized use of primarily size-related acoustic variation to communicate motivational information, has received support from both non-human (Reby et al., 2005) and human (Puts, Hodges, Cardenas, & Gaulin, 2007) studies showing that males lower their frequency components to sound more dominant. We propose that, because in humans, F0 and ΔF are primarily indexes of sex rather than size, speakers primarily use a ‘gender code’, whereby they control these cues to vary the vocal expression of their gender.

    As noted earlier, certain social contexts – such as the presence of same-sex peers – may trigger gender-typed behaviour (Banerjee & Lintern, 2001). The present study raises the question of whether the control of acoustic parameters as reported in this study contributes to this self-presentation of gender. Several studies (Biernat, 1991; O’Brien & Huston, 1985; Serbin, Poulin-Dubois, Colburne, Sen, & Eichstedt,2001) have found that Western children acquire gender stereotypes in behaviour and appearance by 3 years of age (and increase their gender-typed associations as they get older), but to our knowledge, no research has focused on the acquisition and role of voice stereotypes in children.

    The development of voice control in the expression of gender in children’s everyday speech therefore remains to be studied.

    Moreover, given the importance of social environment on children’s gender identity, future studies should examine the role of parental–child interactions, peer interactions, and child-directed media (i.e., advertising, cartoons) on voice gender acquisition and development in a range of cultures and societies.

    Cartei, V., Cowles, W., Banerjee, R. and Reby, D. (2013). Control of voice gender in pre-pubertal children. Br J Dev Psychol, 32(1), pp.100-106.

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    Development of Simultaneous Pitch Encoding: Infants Show a High Voice Superiority Effect

    Abstract:

    Infants must learn to make sense of real-world auditory environments containing simultaneous and overlapping sounds. In adults, event-related potential studies have demonstrated the existence of separate preattentive memory traces for concurrent note sequences and revealed perceptual dominance for encoding of the voice with higher fundamental frequency of 2 simultaneous tones or melodies. Here, we presented 2 simultaneous streams of notes (15 semitones apart) to 7-month-old infants. On 50% of trials, either the higher or the lower note was modified by one semitone, up or down, leaving 50% standard trials. Infants showed mismatch negativity (MMN) to changes in both voices, indicating separate memory traces for each voice. Furthermore, MMN was earlier and larger for the higher voice as in adults. When in the context of a second voice, representation of the lower voice was decreased and that of the higher voice increased compared with when each voice was presented alone. Additionally, correlations between MMN amplitude and amount of weekly music listening suggest that experience affects the development of auditory memory. In sum, the ability to process simultaneous pitches and the dominance of the highest voice emerge early during infancy and are likely important for the perceptual organization of sound in realistic environments.

    Marie, C. and Trainor, L. (2012). Development of Simultaneous Pitch Encoding: Infants Show a High Voice Superiority Effect. Cerebral Cortex, 23(3), pp.660-669.

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    Neural Correlates of Explicit Social Judgments on Vocal Stimuli

    Functional neuroimaging research on the neural basis of social evaluation has traditionally focused on face perception paradigms. Thus, little is known about the neurobiology of social evaluation processes based on auditory cues, such as voices.

    To investigate the top-down effects of social trait judgments on voices, hemodynamic responses of 44 healthy participants were measured during social trait (trustworthiness [TR] and attractiveness [AT]), emotional (happiness, HA), and cognitive (age, AG) voice judgments. Relative to HA and AG judgments, TR and AT judgments both engaged the bilateral inferior parietal cortex (IPC; area PGa) and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) extending into the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex. This dmPFC activation overlapped with previously reported areas specifically involved in social judgments on ‘faces.’

    Moreover, social trait judgments were expected to share neural correlates with emotional HA and cognitive AG judgments. Comparison of effects pertaining to social, social–emotional, and social–cognitive appraisal processes revealed a dissociation of the left IPC into 3 functional subregions assigned to distinct cytoarchitectonic subdivisions. In total, the dmPFC is proposed to assume a central role in social attribution processes across sensory qualities. In social judgments on voices, IPC activity shifts from rostral processing of more emotional judgment facets to caudal processing of more cognitive judgment facets.

    We investigated the neural basis underlying explicit social trait judgments on voice records of everyday statements. The observed convergence of brain regions recruited during social trait judgments on voices in the present study, and on faces in previous studies, indicates a central, most likely transmodal role of the dmPFC in complex social attribution processes across judgment modalities and sensory qualities. Furthermore, we characterized the functional heterogeneity of the left IPC in social evaluation tasks on voices, suggesting selective recruitment of the IPC along a rostro-caudal functional axis mediating affective processes more rostrally and cognitive trait-oriented features more caudally.

    Hensel, L., Bzdok, D., Muller, V., Zilles, K. and Eickhoff, S. (2013). Neural Correlates of Explicit Social Judgments on Vocal Stimuli. Cerebral Cortex, 25(5), pp.1152-1162.

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    Pitch Memory in Nonmusicians and Musicians: Revealing Functional Differences Using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

    The musicians’ brain has been studied extensively as a model for neuroplasticity over the last 2 decades (Herholz and Zatorre 2012; Merette et al. 2013 for recent overviews).

    Findings from cross-sectional brain imaging studies comparing brain structures of musicians and nonmusicians suggest that multiple anatomical differences exist including motor areas (Jäncke et al. 1997), gray matter volume in Heschl’s gyrus (Schneider et al. 2002) and the corpus callosum (Schlaug et al. 1995).

    Furthermore, studies have shown different activation patterns for musicians and nonmusicians for several cognitive tasks (e.g., verbal and tonal memory: Schulze, Zysset et al. 2011; processing rhythms: Herdener et al. 2014; pitch perception: Habibi et al. 2013). A longitudinal intervention study by Hyde et al. (2009) found that after 15 months of musical training children show anatomical differences in the motor hand area, corpus callosum, and right auditory cortex compared with a control group.

    Even though such longitudinal studies are relatively sparse, the reasons behind the specialization of neural structures in individuals with musical training can be traced back to the fact that learning an instrument requires extensively regular and deliberate practice (Ericsson et al. 1993), often starting at a very young age. Furthermore, playing an instrument is a highly complex skill whereby one has to integrate higher-order cognitive functions and control very fine motor movements (Wan and Schlaug 2010).

    Evidence cited in support of a link between musical training and neuroplasticity includes consistent age of onset effects (Barrett et al. 2013for a review). Thus, it is likely that the brain adapts to these exceptional demands (Münte et al. 2002; Gaser and Schlaug 2003).

    Functional imaging studies investigating neural networks of pitch memory in nonmusicians have shown involvements of frontal, temporal, and parietal areas (Zatorre et al. 1994; Koelsch et al. 2009; Jerde et al. 2011). More specifically, in subjects with no or very little musical training, Gaab et al. (2003) showed that pitch memory recruits a network of neural regions, including the superior temporal gyri, bilateral posterior dorsolateral frontal regions, bilateral superior parietal regions, bilateral lobes V and VI of the cerebellum, the supramarginal gyri, and the left inferior frontal gyrus. The activation of the left supramarginal gyrus (SMG) was of particular interest as higher activation in this region was linked to superior pitch memory performance (Gaab et al. 2003).

    To investigate the causal involvement of specific brain areas in pitch memory, noninvasive brain stimulation methods, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), are useful, as they enable the manipulation of cortical excitability in a targeted area (Nitsche and Paulus 2001; Antal et al. 2004). Whereas anodal tDCS leads to a facilitation of neural activity, cathodal tDCS suppresses the cortical excitability under the site of stimulation (Nitsche and Paulus 2000; Cohen Kadosh et al. 2010; Ladeira et al. 2011). Previous tDCS studies have supported the causal involvement of the left SMG in pitch memory recognition by showing a deterioration of performance after cathodal stimulation (Vines et al. 2006) and an improvement of pitch memory on a recognition and recall task (but not visual memory) after anodal stimulation in nonmusicians (Schaal et al. 2013).

    To date however, there are no tDCS studies of the SMG in trained musicians, so the causal role of the left SMG in superior pitch memory performance remains to be tested.

    One other relevant feature of SMG activation during music processing in musicians and nonmusicians has been contrary hemispheric patterns.Gaab and Schlaug (2003) revealed stronger activation in the right SMG in musicians compared with nonmusicians during a pitch memory task when performances of both groups were matched, indicating different underlying cognitive processing.

    However, several other studies have reported stronger activation in the left SMG in musicians during music listening (Seung et al. 2005) and pitch memory (Ellis et al. 2013). Schulze, Zysset et al. (2011) compared verbal (memorizing syllables) and tonal (memorizing pitches) working memory in musicians and nonmusicians and revealed overlapping activation patterns including the left inferior parietal lobe (corresponding to the location of the SMG), in both groups for the memory processes.

    Furthermore, in the musician group, additional activation was found in the right globus pallidus, right caudate nucleus, and left cerebellum during tonal working memory suggesting that musicians use a specialized and more complex neural system for memorizing pitches.

    An important note in this context is that the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies mentioned above all used recognition tasks to investigate neural correlates of pitch memory (Zatorre et al. 1994;Gaab et al. 2003; Gaab and Schlaug 2003; Koelsch et al. 2009; Jerde et al. 2011; Schulze, Zysset et al. 2011; Ellis et al. 2013).

    In general, short-term memory can be tested by 2 response methods, recognition and recall. Whereas recognition relies on a monitoring process for re-presented stimuli, recall tasks include more demanding production processes. A study comparing memory for auditorily and visually presented words has shown that underlying activity of neural structures varies depending whether recall or recognition processes were required (Cabeza et al. 2003). This is often traced back to different strategies used in different task procedures. Furthermore, activation differences found in studies using different recognition tasks may also be due to subtle but important task demand differences which require varying memory processes such as maintenance and rehearsal. For example, the study by Gaab et al. (2003)used a recognition task which only emphasized maintenance of pitch information, whereas the task demands in the study by Schulze, Zysset et al. (2011) required maintenance and explicitly instructed participants to use rehearsal processes. These task demand differences could explain why the activation found in the SMG in the study by Gaab et al. (2003) is more inferior than the inferior parietal activation found by Schulze, Zysset et al. (2011).

    The aim of the present study is to investigate whether functional differences of the SMG can be found between musicians and nonmusicians in pitch memory and to clarify whether any such differences can be attributed to memory task demands. Therefore, performances on 2 pitch memory tasks (recognition and recall) and a visual control task were investigated following cathodal tDCS over the left SMG, right SMG, or sham stimulation. In line with previous studies, we hypothesized that in nonmusicians, cathodal stimulation over the left SMG would lead to a deterioration of performance on both pitch memory tasks (Vines et al. 2006; Schaal et al. 2013). Regarding the musicians group, 3 outcomes are possible: (1) cathodal stimulation over the left SMG results in deterioration of pitch memory performance, as stronger activation in the left SMG of musicians was found by Ellis et al. 2013, (2) cathodal tDCS over the right SMG would lead to a drop in pitch memory performance, as musicians show more right hemispheric activation for musical memory (Gaab and Schlaug 2003), or (3) no stimulation effect would be found as musicians activate a more complex neural system for the pitch memory process and can compensate for any stimulation modulations (Schulze, Zysset et al. 2011).

    In summary, the present study provides evidence for the different and distinctive causal involvement of the SMG in nonmusicians and musicians in the pitch memory process. A significant downward modulation of pitch memory performance (recognition and recall) after cathodal tDCS over the left SMG was only found in nonmusicians. In the musicians group, a selective effect was found on the pitch recognition task but only after stimulation of the right SMG. These combined results suggest a hemispheric specialization of the SMG for pitch memory depending on musical expertise and training.

    Schaal, N., Krause, V., Lange, K., Banissy, M., Williamson, V. and Pollok, B. (2014). Pitch Memory in Nonmusicians and Musicians: Revealing Functional Differences Using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. Cereb. Cortex, 25(9), pp.2774-2782.

  2. What childhood characteristics predict psychological resilience to economic shocks in adulthood?

    This paper investigates whether people’s psychological resilience to one of the most important economic shocks – job loss – can be predicted using early childhood characteristics. Using a longitudinal data that tracked almost 3000 children into adulthood, we showed that the negative effect of unemployment on mental well-being and life satisfaction is significantly larger for workers who, as adolescents, had a relatively poor father-child relationship. Maternal unemployment, on the other hand, is a good predictor of how individuals react psychologically to future unemployment. Although the results should be viewed as illustrative and more research is needed, the current article provides new longitudinal evidence that psychological resilience to job loss may be determined early on in the life cycle.

    Consistent with the previous studies on the psychological effects of job loss, an unemployment shock is associated with a significant drop in both mental well-being and life satisfaction for the individuals.

    However, the drop in well-being is predicted to be around 50% larger for people who were one standard deviation above the mean in the frequency of having arguments with father between aged 11 and 15. Maternal unemployment, on the other hand, is found to be associated positively with the well-being of the unemployed. However, there are also many other factors such as having more close friends or father’s mental distress that do not seem to predict heterogeneity in the psychological response to job loss in adulthood at all.

    This paper is not without limitations. One natural objection to our results is that the relationship between, say, having a poor father-child relationship during childhood and psychological resilience in adulthood is not causal. While our FE estimation may have taken care of the unobserved person-specific characteristics that made people argued more with their father as children and less psychologically resilient as adults, we still do not know what may have caused such a poor father-child relationship to cultivate in the first place. Although this problem is not easily solved without a good identification strategy, we still believe that the ability to predict who will be more negatively affected by future economic shocks is one of the key components to optimal policy design. What this means is that even if our indicator of having a poor father-child relationship is nothing more than just a mirror reflection of something else that is unobserved about the child – e.g. time-persistent unobserved personality traits, then at least it serves its purpose as a device which can be used to gauge early a child’s ability to cope and adapt to negative shocks in the future.

    Highlights

    We show that psychological resilience in adulthood is determined in adolescence.

    Unemployment lowers wellbeing more for those with poor father-child relationships.

    Maternal unemployment predicts psychological resilience for the unemployed.

    The structure of psychological resilience is different by gender.

    Powdthavee, N. (2014). What childhood characteristics predict psychological resilience to economic shocks in adulthood?. Journal of Economic Psychology, 45, pp.84-101.

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    Teaching children to save: What is the best strategy for lifetime savings?

    Using a panel dataset from the Dutch DNB Household Survey we find that parental teaching to save increases the likelihood that an adult will save by 16%, and the saving amount by about 30%. The best strategy involves a combination of different methods (giving pocket money, controlling money usage, and giving advice about saving and budgeting). The effect of parental financial socialization is persistent with age, but decays at elder age for the propensity to save.

    Receiving parental teaching to save stimulates saving attitude to a large extent: the effect is so large that an unemployed household head who received parental teaching to save has the same propensity to save as an employed household head but without parental teaching. In addition, a household head with parental teaching but without high school degree saves the same amount of money as a college graduate without parental teaching to save.

    Parental teaching is more effective especially when different teaching methods are combined. The most effective strategy is teaching to save during childhood andadolescence. Among the different strategies, only giving pocket money seems ineffective. The lack of a significant effect of receiving an allowance on saving behavior confirms previous evidence from Kim and Chatterjee, 2013, Kim et al., 2011 and Webley and Nyhus, 2006. A possible explanation is that allowances are effective only when contingent upon chores or other responsibilities (Ashby et al., 2011).

    In addition, we find that the distance in the propensity to save between those who received parental teaching and those who did not reduces with age. Individuals who did not experience parental teaching seem to procrastinate their savings as long as they can. We also found that a combination of all the teaching methods is the most effective strategy only in the first part of adult age, up to roughly age 50. Interestingly, this evidence does not emerge when focusing on the saving amount.

    Our results are robust to different specifications and to the inclusion of different explanatory variables. However, they cannot be interpreted as causal effects. Our treatment variables measuring “teaching children to save” are not exogenous as in an ideal experimental setting. Our estimates could suffer from omitted variable bias due to the fact that there may be some unobservable characteristics – such as parents’ education, and preferences – correlated with the teaching strategy implemented during childhood and the saving behavior when adults. In addition, information on the financial socialization after childhood is missing in the dataset. We therefore implemented a Generalized Sensitivity Analysis (see Harada, 2013 and Imbens, 2003) to assess the extent of the omitted variable bias. The analysis shows that our results are not sensitive to unobservable heterogeneity, and therefore they are robust to omitted variable bias concerns.

    Our analysis therefore suggests that saving education received during childhood is important to stimulate saving behavior during adulthood. Parents should be informed about the lessons that their own financial behavior can impart. Moreover it is important that not only children, but also parents are included in financial education programs. Indeed, studies on financial literacy show that many parents do not have the skills themselves. For instance, TIIA-CREF Institute (2001) found on a U.S. survey that parents overestimate their knowledge about finances and underestimate the role they can play in teaching children about money management. Financial educators should then take into account the option of offering formal seminars and workshops on financial decision-making to teach both financial literacy and how parents can improve their ability to discuss about money and budgeting to their children. Whether then informal parental teaching is more effective than formal teaching at school is an interesting empirical question that we leave for future research.

    Bucciol, A. and Veronesi, M. (2014). Teaching children to save: What is the best strategy for lifetime savings?. Journal of Economic Psychology, 45, pp.1-17.

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    Growing up poor affects adults’ sense of control, impulsiveness when faced with economic uncertainty

    Extract:

    “Two people with different childhood backgrounds are likely to respond to uncertainty in different ways, even if as adults they have a similar socioeconomic status (SES). We found that adults who grew up poor were more inclined to consider difficult and uncertain living conditions as beyond their control, while those from affluent backgrounds found them to be within their control. This leads to different reactions to the same situation,” said lead author Chiraag Mittal, MS, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota…

    Mittal, C. and Griskevicius, V. (2014). Sense of control under uncertainty depends on people’s childhood environment: A life history theory approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(4), pp.621-637.

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    Executive functioning: Developmental consequences on adolescents with histories of maltreatment

    Research suggests that children exposed to maltreatment have deficits in executive functioning (EF) but few studies have focused on the adolescent age group. We investigated whether maltreated adolescents had lower EF abilities compared to a group of non-maltreated adolescents.

    Forty adolescents with histories of child maltreatment, together with a comparison group of 40 non-maltreated adolescents matched for age, completed a comprehensive battery of EF tasks. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses, controlling for IQ, were carried out using each of the EF measures as dependent variables to examine group differences. Maltreated adolescents had significantly lower performance than non-maltreated adolescents on tasks assessing executive loaded working memory, fluency, and inhibition, although switching was not impaired.

    Emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) were included in additional regression analyses to examine whether these variables would explain the group differences. The inclusion of EBD variables had some effect on group differences, as expected, but did not eliminate them. These findings support the theory that impairments in EF may be one underlying reason why adolescents with histories of maltreatment struggle to cope both inside and outside the classroom.

    Kirke-Smith, M., Henry, L. and Messer, D. (2014). Executive functioning: Developmental consequences on adolescents with histories of maltreatment. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 32(3), pp.305-319.

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    The Effects of Poverty on Childhood Brain Development

    Poverty was associated with smaller white and cortical gray matter and hippocampal and amygdala volumes. The effects of poverty on hippocampal volume were mediated by caregiving support/hostility on the left and right, as well as stressful life events on the left.

    Luby, J., Belden, A., Botteron, K., Marrus, N., Harms, M., Babb, C., Nishino, T. and Barch, D. (2013). The Effects of Poverty on Childhood Brain Development. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(12), p.1135.

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    A single 10-second kiss can transfer as many as 80 million bacteria, according to Dutch scientists.

    They monitored the kissing behaviour of 21 couples and found those who kissed nine times a day were most likely to share salivary bugs.

    Studies suggest the mouth is home to more than 700 different types of bacteria – but the report reveals some are exchanged more easily than others.

    Kort, R., Caspers, M., van de Graaf, A., van Egmond, W., Keijser, B. and Roeselers, G. (2014). Shaping the oral microbiota through intimate kissing. Microbiome, 2(1), p.41.

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    Alzheimer’s Risk Doubled In People With Herpes [cold sores] Virus; How The Virus Stimulates Alzheimer’s Development

    Extract:

    A new study finds that people carrying the herpes virus have double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Considering that almost everyone contracts one particular form of the virus, it could explain why so many people also develop Alzheimer’s.

    Article: http://www.medicaldaily.com/alzheimers-risk-doubled-people-herpes-virus-how-virus-stimulates-alzheimers-development-307995

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    Teen Relationship Struggles: From Potentially Innocuous to Annoying to Abusive Digital Behaviours

    Whether through immaturity, lack of knowledge or malicious intent, teenagers, like adults, occasionally experience controlling or troubling behaviors as part of their romantic relationships. The digital world offers a whole realm of tools to exact revenge, retaliate against, spy on, control, abuse or hurt a current or former partner. While some behaviors are clearly always abusive, others are more nuanced – one person’s oppressive number of text messages is another person’s close connection to a loved one. In most cases, the context of these behaviors is critical to determining where they fall on a spectrum from potentially innocuous to annoying to controlling and harmful… [READ IN FULL]

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    Suicide teenagers feared family would keep them apart

    Charleigh Disbrey, 15, and her Turkish boyfriend Mert Karaoglan,18, ran in front of a train holding hands

    Extract:

    “Two teenagers who feared that their cultural differences meant they would never be accepted as a couple killed themselves by running in front of a train while holding hands, an inquest heard.
    Charleigh Disbrey, 15, died alongside Mert Karaoglan, her 18-year-old Turkish boyfriend, on June 17 last year.
    They climbed a 6ft fence to get on to the tracks and were struck by the empty train at Elstree and Borehamwood station in Hertfordshire…”

    Graham Danbury, the Hertfordshire deputy coroner, said: “By way of background, they had been in a close relationship for a relatively short time — a month or so — and appear to have decided that because of cultural and family issues they were not going to be allowed to develop their relationship…”

    Article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11043894/Suicide-teenagers-feared-family-would-keep-them-apart.html

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    “The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication.” – Aristotle

    [Aristotle’s writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government – and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy…]

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    California “Clash of Clans” Teen Sex Groomer Jailed

    Extract:

    A Californian man has been jailed for six years for abducting a teenage girl from Cornwall who he groomed online. David Telles, 38, of Trenton Circle, Pleasanton, California, flew to Britain and took the 14-year-old to two hotels, Exeter Crown Court heard. He admitted sexual grooming, abduction of a child, sexual activity with a child and engaging in a sexual act in the presence of a child.

    Telles seduced the girl through the cult online game Clash of Clans.

    The court heard Telles flew from California to Heathrow on 14 June and drove to Cornwall in a hire car…

    Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-29940539

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    High Emotional Intelligence linked with more delinquency among young women (but not men)

    If, as research suggests, the psychological trait of sensation seeking is the catalyst for youthful delinquency, might high emotional intelligence (EI; having empathy for other people’s emotions and good control over one’s own) act as a calming restraint? That was the question Alison Bacon her colleagues posed in their study of 96 undergrads (average age 20; 48 women).

    Their “surprising and unprecedented” discovery was that for women, not only did high EI not moderate the link between sensation seeking and delinquency, in fact high EI went hand in hand with higher rates of self-reported delinquency, including playing truant from school, taking drugs and violence.

    Why should this be? The researchers are left speculating. They think high EI might fuel acts of indirect aggression like “psychological bullying, deliberate social exclusion or malicious gossip” that tend to be performed more by young females than males. Unfortunately the researchers’ measure of delinquent behaviour didn’t include these kinds of behaviours, but they reasoned perhaps the same young women who perform these less visible acts were also more likely to commit the forms of delinquency that were on the scale, such as rowdy behaviour and smoking cannabis. If so, this would help explain the high EI / delinquency link in women.

    “A high level of trait EI may facilitate an enhanced ability to present Machiavellian behaviour in a positive light, understand victims’ emotions and predict likely responses in order that social manipulations are successful,” Bacon and her team said.

    What about the male students? Their answers were more in line with the researchers’ predictions. For men, higher EI acted as a moderator, weakening the link between sensation seeking traits and delinquency. High EI also had its own direct inverse relationship with delinquency – that is, men with higher EI tended to be less rebellious.

    “Trait EI is known to predict a wide array of positive, practical and health-related life outcomes,” the researchers concluded. “Understanding how the perpetration of negative behaviours is linked to trait EI may be an important step towards promoting well-being.”

    Article: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2014/10/14/high-emotional-intelligence-linked-with-more-delinquency-among-young-women-but-not-men/

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    ‘Fuzzy thinking’ in depression and bipolar disorder: New research finds effect is real

    People with depression or bipolar disorder often feel their thinking ability has gotten « fuzzy », or less sharp than before their symptoms began. Now, researchers have shown in a very large study that effect is indeed real – and rooted in brain activity differences that show up on advanced brain scans.

    Ryan, K., Dawson, E., Kassel, M., Weldon, A., Marshall, D., Meyers, K., Gabriel, L., Vederman, A., Weisenbach, S., McInnis, M., Zubieta, J. and Langenecker, S. (2015). Shared dimensions of performance and activation dysfunction in cognitive control in females with mood disorders. Brain, 138(5), pp.1424-1434.

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    Teens who mature early at greater risk of depression, study finds

    Extract:

    Published online by the journal Development and Psychopathology, the study is one of the first research projects to confirm that early puberty heightens risk for depression in both sexes over time and to explain the underlying mechanisms.
    Youth who entered puberty ahead of their peers were vulnerable to a number of risks that were associated with depression. They had poorer self-images; greater anxiety; social problems, including conflict with family members and peers; and tended to befriend peers who were prone to getting into trouble, the researchers found…

    Rudolph, K., Troop-Gordon, W., Lambert, S. and Natsuaki, M. (2014). Long-term consequences of pubertal timing for youth depression: Identifying personal and contextual pathways of risk. Development and Psychopathology, 26(4pt2), pp.1423-1444.

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    The Face of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

    Extract:

    Emotionally neglected children grow up with a blind spot about emotions, their own as well as those of others. Through no fault of their own, when they become parents themselves, they’re not aware enough of the emotions of their own children, and they unwittingly raise their children to have the same blind spot. And so on and so on, through generation after generation…

    So the world is full of people who always come through for others, who put their own needs aside. They paste those beaming smiles on their faces, put one foot in front of the other and soldier on, giving no hint of how they really feel.

    My goal is to make people aware of this subtle but powerful force from their past. I want to make the term emotional neglect a household term. I want to help parents know how important it is to respond enough to their children’s emotional needs, and how to do so. I want to stop this insidious force from sapping people’s happiness and connection to others throughout their lives, and to stop the transfer of emotional neglect from one generation to another…

    Full Article: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/06/15/the-face-of-childhood-emotional-neglect-cen/

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    Le désastre de l’aIcool chez les jeunes !

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    Telomere length and cortisol reactivity in children of depressed mothers

    This study is the first to demonstrate that children at familial risk of developing MDD are characterized by accelerated biological aging, operationalized as shortened telomere length, before they had experienced an onset of depression; this may predispose them to develop not only MDD but also other age-related medical illnesses. It is critical, therefore, that we attempt to identify and distinguish genetic and environmental mechanisms that contribute to telomere shortening.

    Gotlib, I., LeMoult, J., Colich, N., Foland-Ross, L., Hallmayer, J., Joormann, J., Lin, J. and Wolkowitz, O. (2014). Telomere length and cortisol reactivity in children of depressed mothers. Molecular Psychiatry, 20(5), pp.615-620.

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    Toddlers regulate behavior to avoid making adults angry

    Extract:

    When kids say “the darnedest things,” it’s often in response to something they heard or saw. This sponge-like learning starts at birth, as infants begin to decipher the social world surrounding them long before they can speak.

    Now researchers at the University of Washington have found that children as young as 15 months can detect anger when watching other people’s social interactions and then use that emotional information to guide their own behavior.

    The study, published in the October/November issue of the journal Cognitive Development, is the first evidence that younger toddlers are capable of using multiple cues from emotions and vision to understand the motivations of the people around them.

    “At 15 months of age, children are trying to understand their social world and how people will react,” said lead author Betty Repacholi, a faculty researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and an associate professor of psychology. “In this study we found that toddlers who aren’t yet speaking can use visual and social cues to understand other people – that’s sophisticated cognitive skills for 15-month-olds.”

    Article: http://www.psypost.org/2014/10/toddlers-regulate-behavior-avoid-making-adults-angry-28574

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    Changes in Thickness & Surface Area of the HumanCortex & Their Relationship with Intelligence

    Changes in cortical thickness over time have been related to intelligence, but whether changes in cortical surface area are related to general cognitive functioning is unknown. We therefore examined the relationship between intelligence quotient (IQ) and changes in cortical thickness and surface over time in 504 healthy subjects. At 10 years of age, more intelligent children have a slightly thinner cortex than children with a lower IQ. This relationship becomes more pronounced with increasing age: with higher IQ, a faster thinning of the cortex is found over time. In the more intelligent young adults, this relationship reverses so that by the age of 42 a thicker cortex is associated with higher intelligence. In contrast, cortical surface is larger in more intelligent children at the age of 10. The cortical surface is still expanding, reaching its maximum area during adolescence. With higher IQ, cortical expansion is completed at a younger age; and once completed, surface area decreases at a higher rate. These findings suggest that intelligence may be more related to the magnitude and timing of changes in brain structure during development than to brain structure per se, and that the cortex is never completed but shows continuing intelligence-dependent development.

    Schnack, H., van Haren, N., Brouwer, R., Evans, A., Durston, S., Boomsma, D., Kahn, R. and Hulshoff Pol, H. (2014). Changes in Thickness and Surface Area of the Human Cortex and Their Relationship with Intelligence. Cerebral Cortex, 25(6), pp.1608-1617.

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    La Jeunesse de Napoleon: L’enfant Prodige, Guerrier Académique

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    Applying a social learning theoretical framework to music therapy as a prevention and intervention for bullies and victims of bullying

    Bullying is a growing worldwide problem largely affecting school-aged youth and, to date, there is no music therapy literature specific to bullying. As a result, there is no guidance for applying theoretical frameworks or for developing music therapy interventions for bullies and victims of bullying. After synthesizing the literature and determining the characteristics and behaviors of bullies and victims, the authors applied social learning theory as a framework to conceptualize the behaviors and cognitions of bullies and victims and to design age appropriate music therapy interventions.

    Based from concepts of social learning theory and existing music therapy research with adolescents, the authors provide suggestions of music therapy interventions for both bullies and victims. It seems that a social learning theory approach to music therapy interventions might represent an appropriate approach to frame treatments for both bullies and the victims of bullying. Prevention and intervention efforts at various age and developmental levels using music therapy may be more engaging, motivating, and effective than prevention and intervention efforts without music.

    The proposed interventions may be a helpful initiator for music therapists working with school-aged populations on the issues of bullying.

    Social learning theory as conceptual framework to address bullying:

    Bandura developed social learning theory in the 1960s and asserted that behaviors are produced and maintained by the interaction between a person and his or her environment (Bandura, 1977). In turn, psychological functioning is a result of the “continuous reciprocal interaction of personal and environmental determinants” and “…virtually all learning phenomena resulting from direct experiences occur on a vicarious basis by observing other people’s behavior and its consequences for them” (p. 12).

    This model emphasized humans’ capacity for self-directed behavior change (Wilson, 2011) and vicarious learning given the role of cognitive function in behavior. Thus, although social experiences may continuously shape behaviors, people are able to change both their cognitions and behaviors. Bullies and victims of bullying, specifically, are able to learn appropriate social behaviors by changing their thoughts concerning the behaviors.

    Given the documented need for both prevention and intervention for bullies and victims of bullying and the characteristics of these populations, it seems that music therapists may be able to utilize social learning theory as a conceptual framework from which to treat these populations. Social learning theory may provide an appropriate framework for use in educational settings as there are ample opportunities for social engagement and modeling behaviors.

    Moreover, music therapy interventions have been successful at improving peer relations, self-management (Gooding, 2011), and social skills (Chong & Kim, 2010). Utilizing social learning theory with the Orff Schulwerk philosophy can provide a musical and conceptual framework from which to design age and developmentally appropriate interventions targeting social goals. Preventative efforts using interactive forms of music therapy may be more engaging, motivating, and effective than traditional talk-based prevention efforts without music. In the contemporary era of heightened accountability and evidence-based practice, quantitative and qualitative research is warranted to determine effects of music therapy with bullies and victims of bullying at various age levels who may have similar characteristics. Moreover, specific questions remain concerning specific therapeutic mechanisms of how and why music therapy interventions might be effective with bullies and victims of bullying.

    Shafer, K. and Silverman, M. (2013). Applying a social learning theoretical framework to music therapy as a prevention and intervention for bullies and victims of bullying. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 40(5), pp.495-500.

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    Art therapy groups for adolescents with personality disorders

    This paper describes a study conducted on the efficacy of art therapy administered to a group of adolescent patients suffering from personality disorders at a residential rehabilitation center.
    It has been just 50 years since the development of “art therapy” as a distinct discipline was first mentioned. Thanks to contributions from Naumburg (1947), and later fromKramer (1958), the focus was initially on analyzing the ‘work of art’, and subsequently on the creative process behind it, which can be considered therapeutic in itself because of the sensory and kinesthetic commitment that it requires, which facilitates the identification and expression of emotions.

    Art therapy is seen today as a therapeutic methodological model based on a non-verbal approach that comprises a number of treatments devised to promote health and facilitate recovery by means of an active or passive involvement in an expressive activity. Participants have to be able to make use of various processes and techniques that help them to develop their artistic creation, to generate a space that refers them back to their inner world to facilitate the therapeutic relationship and supporting the rehabilitation process (Korlin, Nyback, & Golberg, 2000).

    In psychiatry, art therapy has been used for various purposes, e.g. in studies on the treatment of depression (Korostiy & Hmain, 2013), schizophrenia (Teglbjaerg, 2008), post-traumatic stress disorders (Talwar, 2007), and mental retardation in adults (Kunkle-Miller, 1978).

    Art Therapy has traditionally been applied to a group setting, which simultaneously provides a reassuring containment and also an opportunity for growth and exchange. It can be administered to various types of patient who, through this manual activity, can find a special space for communicating and connecting with others (Ventresca, 2004).

    Adolescence has always been synonymous with transformation and often with a profound sense of disquiet. It may be a good time of life for measures based on art therapy, which gives priority to heeding emotions and desires. Several studies have been conducted on the therapeutic effects of art in adolescence in various settings, including: the rehabilitation of young criminals (Smeijsters, Kil, Kurstjens, Nelten, & Willemars, 2011); efforts to increase the resilience of adolescents coming from particularly difficult socio-economic backgrounds (Jang & Choi, 2012); or easing the obsessive defense mechanisms of adolescents with reading impairments (Shaw, 1978). Many other fields have also been investigated.

    Taking a group approach is also considered more convenient in terms of the cost-benefit balance, and can be very important in helping patients when pharmacological treatments are not enough (Burlingame et al., 1999, Gatta et al., 2010 and Lo Coco et al., 2008).

    Art therapy refers to the concept of “being adolescent” in the sense that it constantly weaves a web that joins body, mind and emotions, enabling patients to regain a taste for creating something with their own hands and seeing themselves as the makers of the product (Ventresca, 2004). The greater use of symbolic rather than verbal language provides a more appropriate path for arriving at patients’ interiority while protecting and containing, bypassing rather than breaking down their defense mechanisms, activating their creative resources and their self-awareness at the same time (Korlin et al., 2000).

    By means of group art therapy, adolescents can also experiment with opening and closing their personal boundaries, and thus succeeding in establishing an independent physical and symbolic space, where they can defend what is their own, while remaining in a dynamic relationship with others. The artistic process becomes a performance that helps them to expand their self-image. It focuses their intentional actions while making way for a life project that shifts the horizon from the ‘here and now’ toward a future once thought and now thinkable again (Ventresca, 2004).

    The purpose of the art therapy administered was mainly to help these adolescents emerge from their relational isolation, offering them an alternative to solitude, supporting their capacity to communicate, listen and respect one another. Another aim was to bring out these adolescents’ resources and the analogies in their personal experiences, while leaving their differences and limits in the background, so as to facilitate an exchange of experiences and their integration, which is such a fundamental aspect in the context of the rehabilitation center where these individuals were staying.

    The expressive activities discussed in this paper seemed to be capable of stimulating the group’s subjective, emotional and human features. Sharing their emotional and human experiences helped the participants to develop a group culture, laying the foundations for establishing a shared heritage, a method for accessing new experiences, and for paving the way to change (Bassetti & Pertile, 2012). Especially for some of its members, the group proved to be an important space for working on themselves and sharing with others, as well as helping new arrivals to fit in, as demonstrated by the virtually constant presence of these participants and by a considerable improvement in the group climate in the second cycle.

    Thus, albeit with its above-mentioned limitations, this study provides evidence that, as part of a compulsory stay in a residential rehabilitation center, our group art therapy activities could have a strongly aggregating value, helping the adolescents involved to combat the sense of solitude and self-centered isolation that often characterizes these patients’ experiences (Ridolfi et al., 2012).

    Gatta, M., Gallo, C. and Vianello, M. (2014). Art therapy groups for adolescents with personality disorders. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(1), pp.1-6.

    The Human Brain is designed for Art Appreciation

    Many studies involving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have exposed participants to paintings under varying task demands. To isolate neural systems that are activated reliably across fMRI studies in response to viewing paintings regardless of variation in task demands, a quantitative meta-analysis of fifteen experiments using the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) method was conducted.

    As predicted, viewing paintings was correlated with activation in a distributed system including the occipital lobes, temporal lobe structures in the ventral stream involved in object (fusiform gyrus) and scene (parahippocampal gyrus) perception, and the anterior insula—a key structure in experience of emotion. In addition, we also observed activation in the posterior cingulate cortex bilaterally—part of the brain’s default network.

    These results suggest that viewing paintings engages not only systems involved in visual representation and object recognition, but also structures underlying emotions and internalized cognitions.

    Vartanian, O. and Skov, M. (2014). Neural correlates of viewing paintings: Evidence from a quantitative meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data. Brain and Cognition, 87, pp.52-56.

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    Children’s Drawings May Indicate Later Intelligence

    Drawing is ancient; it is the only childhood cognitive behavior for which there is any direct evidence from the Upper Paleolithic. Do genes influence individual differences in this species-typical behavior, and is drawing related to intelligence (g) in modern children? We report on the first genetically informative study of children’s figure drawing. In a study of 7,752 pairs of twins, we found that genetic differences exert a greater influence on children’s figure drawing at age 4 than do between-family environmental differences. Figure drawing was as heritable as g at age 4 (heritability of .29 for both). Drawing scores at age 4 correlated significantly with g at age 4 (r = .33, p < .001, n = 14,050) and with g at age 14 (r = .20, p < .001, n = 4,622). The genetic correlation between drawing at age 4 and g at age 14 was .52, 95% confidence interval = [.31, .75]. Individual differences in this widespread behavior have an important genetic component and a significant genetic link with g.

    Arden, R., Trzaskowski, M., Garfield, V. and Plomin, R. (2014). Genes Influence Young Children’s Human Figure Drawings and Their Association With Intelligence a Decade Later. Psychological Science, 25(10), pp.1843-1850.

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    The Neural Correlates of Reading Fluency Deficits in Children

    Reading is a multicomponent process that requires the use of different neural systems to integrate phonology, orthography, syntax, and semantics with lower order perceptual, attentional, and motoric functions (Berninger et al. 2001; Kame’enui and Simmons 2001; Wolf and Katzir-Cohen 2001).

    Reading fluency in the English language often refers to the ability to read rapidly and accurately, with comprehension (NRP 2000;Lyon et al. 2003). Novice readers must learn that spoken words are composed of discrete sounds that can be mapped onto letters (Turkeltaub et al. 2003). With increasing experience, a connection develops between orthography and semantic units, which enables a child to decode printed words with increasing comprehension (Seidenberg 2005). Through automatization, greater accuracy and enhanced speed are achieved and, as a result, the act of reading itself requires less cognitive effort, which allows more cognitive resources for the task of comprehension (Norton and Wolf 2012).

    However, ∼5–17% of children in the USA have difficulty in learning to read despite adequate perceptual and general cognitive abilities, which can be defined as reading disability (RD; Lyon et al. 2003;Galaburda et al. 2006; Peterson and Pennington 2012). Although these disabilities can be (partly) remediated by interventions targeting reading sub-skills (e.g., phonemic awareness), many children still exhibit fluency and/or comprehension deficits after completing remediation (Lyon and Moats 1997) or may show reading fluency deficits, but accurate word identification (Thaler et al. 2004).

    The remaining fluency deficits are hard to remediate (Torgesen et al. 2001; Reynolds et al. 2003) and up to 30% of fourth graders exhibit reading fluency deficits (Perie et al. 2005; Lee et al. 2007). Nevertheless, the underlying mechanisms of fluency deficits have been less studied than other reading components and their neural correlates are almost unknown.

    Most research studies investigating the neural correlates of typical and atypical reading development focus on lower level processes (e.g., phonological awareness) and single-word reading, both of which are easier to study and remediate. These studies have consistently shown that reading processes are integrated in distinct left-hemispheric posterior and anterior systems, which together form the neural reading network (Pugh et al. 2001; Turkeltaub et al. 2003; Schlaggar and McCandliss 2007). The posterior reading network includes fusiform gyrus (FG) and the occipitotemporal and parietotemporal junctions. Individuals with an RD tend to show hypoactivation within the posterior subsystem (e.g.,Turkeltaub et al. 2003; Schlaggar and McCandliss 2007). The more anterior network includes mainly the inferior frontal gyrus and RD tends to hyperactivate this network (Temple 2002; Hoeft et al. 2006; Richlan et al. 2009).

    The present study aims to investigate “natural reading” at varying and individual-based reading speeds in RD and TYP children in order to investigate how the pattern of activation in core reading regions changes as the opportunity to read fluently is manipulated.

    Reading fluency is here defined as reading speed with accurate comprehension and does not include reading accuracy (e.g., while reading aloud). We previously employed a similar study design in typical adults (Benjamin and Gaab 2011) and demonstrated that brain regions engaged in reading respond selectively during fluent reading, and that these same regions (especially FG) increase their activity when fluent reading speed is accelerated (Benjamin and Gaab 2011). Based on the summarized evidence above, we aimed to first validate task-related reading network activations in TYP children and then compare activations between children with RD and TYP at varying reading speeds. Our main hypothesis was that children with RD activate posterior left-hemispheric brain regions (especially FG) to a lesser degree than TYP.

    Based on our previous results in adults and the literature on developmental dyslexia (showing hypoactivation in left-hemispheric occipitotemporal regions), we further hypothesized that, in TYP children, a faster reading rate would lead to increased activation within reading network components and that the group differences between RD and TYP would become more prominent as reading speed was accelerated.

    This suggests that FG plays a key role in sentence reading and further supports the notion that functional deficits in FG could be an underlying mechanism of reading fluency deficits in RD. Given that reading fluency is one of the key deficits in RD, and that remediation programs often fail to remediate deficits in fluent reading, these results and their implications should be carefully considered in clinical and educational practice.

    Langer, N., Benjamin, C., Minas, J. and Gaab, N. (2013). The Neural Correlates of Reading Fluency Deficits in Children. Cerebral Cortex, 25(6), pp.1441-1453.

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    Giving children non-verbal clues about words boosts vocabularies

    By using words to reference objects in the visual environment, parents can help young children learn new words, according to the research. It also explores the difficult-to-measure quality of non-verbal clues to word meaning during interactions between parents and children learning to speak. For example, saying, « There goes the zebra » while visiting the zoo helps a child learn the word « zebra » faster than saying, « Let’s go to see the zebra. »

    Differences in the quality of parents’ non-verbal clues to toddlers (what children can see when their parents are talking) explain about a quarter (22 percent) of the differences in those same children’s vocabularies when they enter kindergarten, researchers found. The results are reported in the paper, « Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary three years later, » published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Cartmill, E., Armstrong, B., Gleitman, L., Goldin-Meadow, S., Medina, T. and Trueswell, J. (2013). Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary 3 years later. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(28), pp.11278-11283.

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    Silence Is Golden: Transient Neural Deactivation in the Prefrontal Cortex during Attentive Reading

    Abstract:

    It is becoming increasingly clear that attention-demanding tasks engage not only activation of specific cortical regions but also deactivation of other regions that could interfere with the task at hand. At the same time, electrophysiological studies in animals and humans have found that the participation of cortical regions to cognitive processes translates into local synchronization of rhythmic neural activity at frequencies above 40 Hz (so-called gamma-band synchronization). Such synchronization is seen as a potential facilitator of neural communication and synaptic plasticity. We found evidence that cognitive processes can also involve the disruption of gamma-band activity in high-order brain regions. Intracerebral electroencephalograms were recorded in 3 epileptic patients during 2 reading tasks. Visual presentation of words induced a strong deactivation in a broad (20–150 Hz) frequency range in the left ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, in parallel with gamma-band activations within the reading network, including Broca’s area. The observed energy decrease in neural signals was reproducible across patients. It peaked around 500 ms after stimulus onset and appeared subject to attention-modulated amplification. Our results suggest that cognition might be mediated by a coordinated interaction between regional gamma-band synchronizations and desynchronizations, possibly reflecting enhanced versus reduced local neural communication.

    Lachaux, J., Jung, J., Mainy, N., Dreher, J., Bertrand, O., Baciu, M., Minotti, L., Hoffmann, D. and Kahane, P. (2007). Silence Is Golden: Transient Neural Deactivation in the Prefrontal Cortex during Attentive Reading. Cerebral Cortex, 18(2), pp.443-450.

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    15 fautes d’orthographe que beaucoup de personnes font (et comment les éviter pour de bon)

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    “Which is the best language to learn?”
    by Robert Lane Greene (Finance correspondent for The Economist in Berlin and the author of “You Are What you Speak”)

    Extract:
    From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, March/April 2012

    For language lovers, the facts are grim: Anglophones simply aren’t learning them any more. In Britain, despite four decades in the European Union, the number of A-levels taken in French and German has fallen by half in the past 20 years, while what was a growing trend of Spanish-learning has stalled. In America, the numbers are equally sorry. One factor behind the 9/11 attacks was the fact that the CIA lacked the Arabic-speakers who might have translated available intelligence. But ten years on, “English only” campaigns appeal more successfully to American patriotism than campaigns that try to promote language-learning, as if the most successful language in history were threatened.
    Why learn a foreign language? After all, the one you already speak if you read this magazine is the world’s most useful and important language. English is not only the first language of the obvious countries, it is now the rest of the world’s second language: a Japanese tourist in Sweden or a Turk landing a plane in Spain will almost always speak English.
    Nonetheless, compelling reasons remain for learning other languages. They range from the intellectual to the economical to the practical…

    Full Article: http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/ideas/robert-lane-greene/which-best-language-learn

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    Orthographic Coding: Brain Activation for Letters, Symbols, and Digits

    Abstract

    The present experiment investigates the input coding mechanisms of 3 common printed characters: letters, numbers, and symbols. Despite research in this area, it is yet unclear whether the identity of these 3 elements is processed through the same or different brain pathways. In addition, some computational models propose that the position-in-string coding of these elements responds to general flexible mechanisms of the visual system that are not character-specific, whereas others suggest that the position coding of letters responds to specific processes that are different from those that guide the position-in-string assignment of other types of visual objects. Here, in an fMRI study, we manipulated character position and character identity through the transposition or substitution of 2 internal elements within strings of 4 elements.

    Participants were presented with 2 consecutive visual strings and asked to decide whether they were the same or different. The results showed: 1) that some brain areas responded more to letters than to numbers and vice versa, suggesting that processing may follow different brain pathways; 2) that the left parietal cortex is involved in letter identity, and critically in letter position coding, specifically contributing to the early stages of the reading process; and that 3) a stimulus-specific mechanism for letter position coding is operating during orthographic processing.

    Taken together, these results show that there are specific brain areas that respond more to letters than to digits and symbols and that letter position coding is primarily supported by specific brain areas that are much less involved in the computation of the position of other types of characters. With regard to the first issue of interest (i.e., the different neural pathways associated with character identity coding), results showed that the left fusiform gyrus and the left inferior and superior parietal gyri showed increased activation for letter strings as compared with the other types of characters, whereas the pars opercularis in the left inferior frontal gyrus and part of the left fusiform responded equally to letters and symbols, but more to these than to digits. Furthermore, other areas responded more to digits than letters. Thus, the left medial occipital, right pallidum, the right superior parietal gyrus, and the right inferior temporal sulcus showed increased activation for digit strings than for letter strings. However, no regions showed more activation for digits than for symbols. Finally, the same areas that respond more to digits than letters also respond more to symbols than letters, in addition to the right angular gyrus and the right middle temporal gyrus. Thus, these results show that processing of the 3 elements involves the recruitment of different brain areas. With regard to the second issue of interest (i.e., the different neural regions associated with character position coding), the results showed some common effects of transpositions for all types of characters (in the right inferior and superior parietal and in the right angular gyrus), but at the same time differential effects for letters as compared with digits and symbols (with letter-specific effects in the left superior and inferior parietal cortex).

    Therefore, the 2 major findings of this experiment are the dissociations found for letters vs. digits and symbols, both relative to the identity and position coding processes.

    First, with regard to letter identity processing, we found increased activation in the left fusiform and the pars opercularis, replicating previous findings (Price 2000, 2012). A large number of prior studies have emphasized the implication of the left inferior frontal gyrus in the reading network (Price 2000, 2012). For instance, it has been found to be implicated in articulatory phonology (Hoeft et al. 2007). This area is an important hub of the reading circuit, which seems to respond to written words at the same time as the left ventral occipito-temporal cortex (Cornelissen et al. 2009; Wheat et al. 2010) and probably exerts a top-down feedback effect on the representations computed in the left ventral occipito-temporal cortex (Woodhead et al. 2014). Interestingly, this area (pars opercularis) did not show differences between letters and symbols but showed higher activation for these 2 types of characters as compared with digits.

    The increase of activation for letters in the left fusiform is in line with massive evidence showing that the occipito-temporal cortex (the putative visual word-form area) is related to skilled reading (see Dehaene and Cohen 2011 for a review). Skilled readers recruit and tune this fast word recognition system (Cohen and Dehaene 2004; Binder et al. 2006), whereas developmental dyslexia is associated with a failure to recruit the occipito-temporal cortex (Richlan et al. 2011).

    The current results demonstrate that the left fusiform shows more activation for letters than for digits or symbols, thus indicating computation of orthographic processing in this area. Furthermore, in accordance with previous results (Turkeltaub et al. 2003; Callan et al. 2005; Reinke et al. 2008), posterior areas of the left fusiform also show significant activation for symbols and for letters, suggesting that these posterior areas may be involved in the computation of abstract orthographic representations but also representations related to meaning.

    It is important to note that isolated letters do not carry meaning in the sense that they do not have specific referents in the world. Strings of consonants formed from arbitrary combinations, such as the ones presented here, are unlikely to carry meaning either, since they do not form words that refer to the world or even pronounceable pseudowords that could be neighbors of existing words. In contrast, some of the symbols used in the present experiment refer to specific meanings like euro, pound, percentage, etc. So, it is quite likely that while strings of consonants do not access semantics, strings of symbols automatically activate some meanings. In fact, probably because strings of symbols evoked abstract semantic representations, they also recruited other areas that have been previously related to semantic processing, such as the right angular gyrus, right superior parietal and the right middle and inferior temporal cortex. Although this hypothesis needs further investigation, these areas have been previously related to various aspects of semantic processing such as such integrating and retrieving semantic information (Binder et al. 2009; Binder and Desai 2011) and top-down predictions of semantic content (Carreiras, Seghier et al. 2009; Brownsett and Wise 2010).

    Secondly, we found several brain areas that responded more to digits than letters. Previous fMRI studies contrasting letters and digits showed more activation for letters than for numbers in the left ventral occipito-temporal cortex, but no areas showing more activation for numbers than for letters (e.g., Polk and Farah 1998; Polk et al. 2002; James et al. 2005; Baker et al. 2007; Reinke et al. 2008). Only a very recent study has shown more activation for numbers than for letters in a right lateral occipital area (Park et al. 2012). Using a different task, we were able to see increase of activation for numbers as compared with letters not only in a left medial occipital area but also in other areas such as right pallidum, right superior parietal gyrus and right inferior temporal sulcus. Interestingly, the recruitment of right hemisphere areas for number processing agrees with a recent study using MEG (Carreiras et al., unpublished data) that revealed a whole right lateralized circuit involved in number processing, including right parietal areas, which dissociated very early from a left lateralized network involved in pseudoword processing. The right bias for number processing is not as clear in the present experiment (see Table 2 andSupplementary Table 1S). Thus, future research is needed to investigate this issue.

    Thirdly, 2 key findings regarding character position assignment should be highlighted, given their importance for a correct understanding of letter-specific coding mechanisms. On the one hand, we found a clear increase of activation triggered by transpositions in the dorsal pathway.

    On the other hand, we specifically identified differential activation for letter transpositions as compared with digit and symbol transpositions in a defined area of the brain (namely, in the left parietal cortex). We not only found letter-specific effects of identity processing in the ventral and dorsal streams but also letter-specific effects of position coding in the dorsal stream. Importantly, while similar activation was found for letter, digit, and symbol transpositions in the right parietal cortex, specific differential activation was found in the left parietal cortex for letter transpositions as compared with digit and symbol transpositions. This suggests that there seem to be some common processes for positional computation of elements in strings. This is predicted by models that assume that transposition effects reflect position uncertainty due to the operation of generic noise in the position coding mechanism of the input (Norris 2006; Gomez et al. 2008), as already suggested by the EEG data presented by Dunabeitia et al. (2012)

    To sum up, the current study has demonstrated the preferential role of the left parietal cortex for letter identity and letter position encoding in the early phases of the reading process and that letter identity and letter position processing are not confined to the ventral pathway but further involve the dorsal visual pathway. These findings are consistent with the involvement of parietal areas in perceptual tasks that involve letter identification and suggest that parietal regions may be involved in the earlier stages of visual word processing (Reilhac et al. 2013). In addition, they are consistent with the idea that the left ventral occipitotemporal cortex is not a mandatory neural toll or an obligatory route for reading (Richardson et al. 2011). The dorsal and ventral pathways can cooperate during visual word recognition processes (see Rosazza et al. 2009).

    In fact, structural connectivity between regions of the 2 pathways (the posterior parietal cortex and the inferior temporal cortex) has been documented (Thiebaut de Schotten et al. 2014), and resting state connectivity has also been reported between these 2 regions in skilled readers (Vogel et al. 2012), but not in dyslexic individuals (van der Mark et al. 2009).

    Carreiras, M., Quiñones, I., Hernández-Cabrera, J. and Duñabeitia, J. (2014). Orthographic Coding: Brain Activation for Letters, Symbols, and Digits. Cereb. Cortex, 25(12), pp.4748-4760.

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    Good Talk: Raising Smart Learners Through Rich Conversations

    A study by researchers at North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California-Irvine, for example, finds that parental involvement—checking homework, attending school meetings and events, discussing school activities at home—has a more powerful influence on students’ academic performance than anything about the school the students attend.

    Article: https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/09/30/good-talk-raising-smart-learners-through-rich-conversations/

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    fMRI of Simultaneous Interpretation Reveals the Neural Basis of Extreme Language Control

    We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural basis of extreme multilingual language control in a group of 50 multilingual participants. Comparing brain responses arising during simultaneous interpretation (SI) with those arising during simultaneous repetition revealed activation of regions known to be involved in speech perception and production, alongside a network incorporating the caudate nucleus that is known to be implicated in domain-general cognitive control.

    The similarity between the networks underlying bilingual language control and general executive control supports the notion that the frequently reported bilingual advantage on executive tasks stems from the day-to-day demands of language control in the multilingual brain.

    We examined neural correlates of the management of simultaneity by correlating brain activity during interpretation with the duration of simultaneous speaking and hearing. This analysis showed significant modulation of the putamen by the duration of simultaneity.

    Our findings suggest that, during SI, the caudate nucleus is implicated in the overarching selection and control of the lexico-semantic system, while the putamen is implicated in ongoing control of language output.
    These findings provide the first clear dissociation of specific dorsal striatum structures in polyglot language control, roles that are consistent with previously described involvement of these regions in nonlinguistic executive control.

    Bilingualism confers a variety of cognitive advantages (Abutalebi et al. 2009; Diamond 2010), including improved nonlinguistic executive skills (Bialystok et al. 2012), and delaying the appearance of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (Schweizer et al. 2012).

    It has been suggested that the observed benefits of bilingualism stem from enhanced inhibitory control, required for continual selection between multiple languages in bilinguals (Green 1998). More recently, it has been proposed that the bilingual advantage arises from increased use of a more general “conflict monitoring” system in bilinguals compared with monolinguals (Costa et al. 2009; Hilchey and Klein 2011; Abutalebi et al. 2012b). Consistent with these suggestions, brain-imaging evidence indicates that bilingual language control depends upon a cortico-subcortical network incorporating the dorsal striatum, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the supplementary motor area (SMA) (Abutalebi and Green 2008; Kroll et al. 2008; Hervais-Adelman et al. 2011; Abutalebi et al. 2012a).

    These brain regions are known to participate in nonlinguistic executive-control processes such as response selection (Grahn et al. 2008), response inhibition (Aron 2008), and conflict monitoring (Botvinick et al. 2004;Abutalebi et al. 2012b).

    Our results provide new insights into the profound overlap between the neural bases of extreme language control and those of domain-general control of cognition and action. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that experienced simultaneous interpreters display enhanced cognitive flexibility compared even with bilingual individuals (Yudes et al. 2011;Stavrakaki et al. 2012).

    The recruitment of similar fronto-subcortical-cerebellar circuits during language and executive control provides powerful evidence that the continuous demands of language control in the multilingual brain, and associated experience-dependent plasticity, could underlie the nonlinguistic, executive advantages that have been observed in bilingual individuals, advantages that may also be protective in defying challenges posed by aging and even disease.

    Hervais-Adelman, A., Moser-Mercer, B., Michel, C. and Golestani, N. (2014). fMRI of Simultaneous Interpretation Reveals the Neural Basis of Extreme Language Control. Cereb. Cortex, 25(12), pp.4727-4739.

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    Can genes predict foreign language learning skills?

    Language teachers will explain to students that anyone can learn a foreign language, and that the skill comes from nurture and not nature. But does biology play any role at all? Is there any part of our DNA that can predict whether or not we can be successful polyglots?

    In fact, neurobiologists have identified a gene that correlates to language. The FOXP2 gene was discovered in the 1990s through a study of a British family in which three generations suffered from severe speech problems.
    The 15 afflicted members of this family shared an inherited mutation of FOXP2, a gene that plays a central role in the brain’s language production processes, both cognitively (through pattern-mapping abilities) and physically (developing the facial muscles needed for articulating complicated sounds).

    This discovery pioneered new notions of a human ‘language gene’ and led to a trend in evolutionary research in the early 20th century, comparing FOXP2 genes in humans and other species, to shed light on how humans developed the capacity for language.

    Recently, that mutated FOXP2 gene discovered in that British family has, surprisingly, been associated with foreign language learning ability, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.
    Assistant professor Bharath Chandrasekaran from the university’s Moody College of Communication discovered this association in the same genetic variation in FOXP2 that had been connected to language impairment nearly two decades ago.

    While the aforementioned research references a specific ‘language gene’ in the human brain, studying a new language actually requires several parts of the brain, comprised of several different genes, to work together.

    This includes the cognitive processes of memory, reasoning, perception, and information ordering. The strength and efficiency of these processes vary naturally from person to person.

    Regardless of whether that variation comes from one’s genes, one’s surroundings, or both, these processes are pivotal in second language learning.

    Chandrasekaran, B., Yi, H., Blanco, N., McGeary, J. and Maddox, W. (2015). Enhanced Procedural Learning of Speech Sound Categories in a Genetic Variant of FOXP2. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(20), pp.7808-7812.

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    Your scores in your GCSEs are heavily influenced by your genetic heritage

    Hard work is important, but studies have shown that GCSE results are also influenced by a myriad of other factors, many of which may surprise you.

    One factor that is clearly important is genes. If you as a parent did well in your exams, it’s likely that your children will too. In fact, a study by researchers at King’s College, London, published at the end of last year made waves by showing that around 58 per cent of the variation between students with regard to their GCSE results could be accounted for by genetic differences. How do we know? Identical twins (who share 100 per cent of their genes and 100 per cent of their environment) have more similar GCSE scores than do non-identical twins (who share 100 per cent of their environment, but only 50 per cent of their genes).

    We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable in the early and middle school years in the UK. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether similarly high heritability is found at the end of compulsory education (age 16) for the UK-wide examination, called the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). In a national twin sample of 11,117 16-year-olds, heritability was substantial for overall GCSE performance for compulsory core subjects (58%) as well as for each of them individually: English (52%), mathematics (55%) and science (58%). In contrast, the overall effects of shared environment, which includes all family and school influences shared by members of twin pairs growing up in the same family and attending the same school, accounts for about 36% of the variance of mean GCSE scores.

    The significance of these findings is that individual differences in educational achievement at the end of compulsory education are not primarily an index of the quality of teachers or schools: much more of the variance of GCSE scores can be attributed to genetics than to school or family environment.

    We suggest a model of education that recognizes the important role of genetics. Rather than a passive model of schooling as instruction (instruere, ‘to build in’), we propose an active model of education (educare, ‘to bring out’) in which children create their own educational experiences in part on the basis of their genetic propensities, which supports the trend towards personalized learning.

    Shakeshaft, N., Trzaskowski, M., McMillan, A., Rimfeld, K., Krapohl, E., Haworth, C., Dale, P. and Plomin, R. (2013). Strong Genetic Influence on a UK Nationwide Test of Educational Achievement at the End of Compulsory Education at Age 16. PLoS ONE, 8(12), p.e80341.

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    Imaging Patterns of Brain Development and their Relationship to Cognition

    We present a brain development index (BDI) that concisely summarizes complex imaging patterns of structural brain maturation along a single dimension using a machine learning methodology. The brain was found to follow a remarkably consistent developmental trajectory in a sample of 621 subjects of ages 8–22 participating in the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, reflected by a cross-validated correlation coefficient between chronologic age and the BDI of r = 0.89. Critically, deviations from this trajectory related to cognitive performance.

    Specifically, subjects whose BDI was higher than their chronological age displayed significantly superior cognitive processing speed compared with subjects whose BDI was lower than their actual age. These results indicate that the multiparametric imaging patterns summarized by the BDI can accurately delineate trajectories of brain development and identify individuals with cognitive precocity or delay.

    The BDI could have important clinical utility. In the first place, it could be used for creating “brain growth charts” similar to those used by pediatricians to follow a child’’s growth. By observing BDIs of a large number of healthy children over time, such tools could be used for following deviations or delays from normal brain development. Luna and Sweeney (2001) emphasized the need for neurobehavioral and neuroimaging studies characterizing normal development before examining at-risk or clinical populations, referring specifically to elucidation of dysmaturation processes in schizophrenia.

    It is noteworthy that Bachman et al. (2012) reported that adolescent-onset psychosis patients fail to show normal age-related increases in processing speed, which in turn predicts poorer functional outcomes.

    Erus, G., Battapady, H., Satterthwaite, T., Hakonarson, H., Gur, R., Davatzikos, C. and Gur, R. (2014). Imaging Patterns of Brain Development and their Relationship to Cognition. Cerebral Cortex, 25(6), pp.1676-1684.

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    Early motor skills may affect language development

    Learning to sit up, crawl and walk are all major milestones in a child’s early development – and parents often record these actions in baby diaries, photographs and videos. Developing motor skills allows the child to become more independent. But our research, backing a number of other studies, has shown that it may also say something about the rate of a child’s cognitive development, such as talking.

    Leonard, H. and Hill, E. (2014). Review: The impact of motor development on typical and atypical social cognition and language: a systematic review. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, p.n/a-n/a.

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    Socioeconomic Adversity and Brain Development

    New research that ties family income level and other factors to brain development. While socioeconomic adversity may not solely determine a child’s success later in life, its significant role in helping children develop language, memory, and life skills can no longer be ignored

    Article: http://www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2014/Rich_Man,_Poor_Man__Socioeconomic_Adversity_and_Brain_Development/#_ENREF_2

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    Being Human… From Lucy to Language

    To understand who we are and why we are, we need to understand both our modern self, and our past. Reflecting on the Academy’s Centenary Research Project From Lucy to Language, Professors Robin Dunbar FBA, Clive Gamble FBA and John Gowlett discuss how their research into the evolution of human cognition and social lives over the ages furthered our understanding of the relationship between mind and world.

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    The case for language learning

    Join the national debate on the importance of language learning and help us put languages back on the agenda. Content in this series is financially supported by the British Academy and editorially independent.

    Article: http://www.theguardian.com/education/series/the-case-for-language-learning

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    Why Kids With High IQs Are More Likely to Take Drugs

    People with high IQs are more likely to smoke marijuana and take other illegal drugs, compared with those who score lower on intelligence tests, according to a new study from the U.K.

    “It’s counterintuitive,” says lead author James White of the Center for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement at Cardiff University in Wales. “It’s not what we thought we would find.”

    The IQ effect was larger in women: women in the top third of the IQ range at age 5 were more than twice as likely to have taken marijuana or cocaine by age 30, compared with those scoring in the bottom third. The men with the highest IQs were nearly 50% more likely to have taken amphetamines and 65% more likely to have taken ecstasy, compared to those with lower scores.

    And these results held even when researchers controlled for factors like socioeconomic status and psychological distress, which are also correlated with rates of drug use.

    So why might smarter kids be more likely to try drugs? “People with high IQs are more likely to score high on personality scales of openness to experience,” says White. “They may be more willing to experiment and seek out novel experiences.”

    That could potentially be linked to the boredom and social isolation experienced by many gifted children, the authors note. But since a link between IQ and drug use remains independent of psychological distress, that can’t be all that’s going on. “It rules out the argument that the only reason people take illegal drugs is to self medicate,” says White…

    White, J. and Batty, G. (2011). Intelligence across childhood in relation to illegal drug use in adulthood: 1970 British Cohort Study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 66(9), pp.767-774.

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    Cocaine Rewires Brain, Overrides Decision-Making After Just One Use, Says Study

    A new study at UC San Francisco’s Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center has revealed that cocaine may rewire the brain and drastically affect decision-making after just one use.

    While similar studies have revealed such rewiring in long-term use, the new study’s results are especially alarming, showing that the brain can be altered after one dose.

    Using live mice, researchers from both UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley studied the frontal lobe — the area of the brain that handles decision-making and memory — when cocaine was introduced to the body. After one dose, researchers found substantial growth of new dendritic spines, which are « tiny, twig-like structures that connect neurons and form the nodes of the brain’s circuit wiring. »

    According to researchers, these new spines rewired the brain to seek cocaine, explaining why the search for the drug might override other priorities in human users.

    « We’ve long known that when you become a repeated drug user, the search for more drugs tends to dominate your attention and decision-making, » Linda Wilbrecht, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and the lead author of the study, explained to The Huffington Post. « But it’s quite shocking that these neurological changes happened after just one use. »

    Muñoz-Cuevas, F., Athilingam, J., Piscopo, D. and Wilbrecht, L. (2013). Cocaine-induced structural plasticity in frontal cortex correlates with conditioned place preference. Nature Neuroscience, 16(10), pp.1367-1369.

  4. Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

    by Aaron E. Carroll, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine

    Similarly, none of these arguments I’ve presented are “pro pot” in the sense that I’m saying that adolescents should go use marijuana without worrying about consequences. There’s little question that marijuana carries with it risks to people who use it, as well as to the nation. The number of people who will be hurt from it, will hurt others because of it, begin to abuse it, and suffer negative consequences from it are certainly greater than zero. But looking only at those dangers, and refusing to grapple with them in the context of our society’s implicit consent for alcohol use in young adults, is irrational.

    When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”

    Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/17/upshot/alcohol-or-marijuana-a-pediatrician-faces-the-question.html

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    Bilingualism as a contributor to cognitive reserve: Evidence from brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease

    Bilingual patients with AD exhibited substantially greater amounts of brain atrophy than monolingual patients in areas traditionally used to distinguish AD patients from healthy controls, specifically, the radial width of the temporal horn and the temporal horn ratio. Other measures of brain atrophy were comparable for the two groups. Bilingualism appears to contribute to increased CR, thereby delaying the onset of AD and requiring the presence of greater amounts of neuropathology before the disease is manifest.

    Schweizer, T., Ware, J., Fischer, C., Craik, F. and Bialystok, E. (2012). Bilingualism as a contributor to cognitive reserve: Evidence from brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease. Cortex, 48(8), pp.991-996.

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    Immune System Strongly Tied to Children’s Brain Development

    A young child’s immune system appears to have a significant effect on his or her brain development, according to a new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine (UVA).

    While working in Bangladesh, researchers found that the longer infants suffered with a fever, the worse they performed on developmental tests at 12 and 24 months. Higher levels of inflammation-causing proteins in the blood were associated with worse performance, while greater levels of inflammation-fighting proteins were tied to improved performance.

    “Early childhood is an absolutely critical time of brain development, and it’s also a time when these children are suffering from recurrent infections. Therefore, we asked whether these infections are contributing to the impaired development we observe in children growing up in adversity,” said lead author Nona Jiang, who conducted the research as an undergraduate student in the laboratory of Dr. William Petri Jr.

    The findings, published online in the journal BMC Pediatrics, may help explain why there is such overwhelming cognitive impairment among children living in poverty. The results also offer direction for physicians trying to help: by preventing inflammation, they may be able to boost children’s mental abilities for a lifetime.

    “By studying which early childhood influences are associated with hindrances to growth and learning, we will know better where to target interventions for the critical period of early childhood,” said researcher Dr. Rebecca Scharf of UVA’s Department of Pediatrics.

    The study highlights the significant and complex relationship between the immune system and cognitive development, an increasingly important area of research that UVA has helped pioneer.

    “This is a very interesting study, showing, probably for the first time, the link between peripheral cytokine levels and improved cognitive development in humans,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor of neuroscience and director of UVA’s center for Brain Immunology & Glia.

    “What is of the most interest and of a great novelty is the fact that [inflammation-fighting cytokines] have positive correlation with cognitive function. My lab published results showing that these IL-4 cytokines are required for proper brain function in mice, and this work from Dr. Petri’s lab completely independently shows similar correlation in humans.”

    “I hope the scientific community will appreciate how dramatic the effects of the immune system are on the central nervous system and will invest more efforts in studying and better understanding these complex and intriguing interactions between the body’s two major systems.”

    Article: https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/02/immune-system-strongly-tied-to-childrens-brain-development/66562.html

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    Can What You Eat Affect Your Mental Health?

    More research is finding that a nutritious dietisn’t just good for the body; it’s great for the brain, too. The knowledge is giving rise to a concept called « nutritional (or food) psychiatry. »

    « Traditionally, we haven’t been trained to ask about food and nutrition, » says psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University. « But diet is potentially the most powerful intervention we have. By helping people shape their diets, we can improve their mental health and decrease their risk of psychiatric disorders. »

    Recent studies have shown « the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet, or what we call the Western diet, to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet. The risk of attention-deficit disorder (ADD) doubles, » Ramsey says.

    « A very large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health, » says Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. « A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety. »

    3 Ways Diet Impacts Your Mental Health

    Here are some more details on how good nutrition impacts brain health:

    1. It’s crucial for brain development.

    « We are, quite literally, what we eat, » says Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. « When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body. »

    2. Itputs the brain into grow mode.

    Certain nutrients and dietary patterns are linked to changes in a brain protein that helps increase connections between brain cells. A diet rich in nutrients like omega-3s and zinc boosts levels of this substance.
    On the other hand, « a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins, » Jacka says.

    3. It fills the gut with healthy bacteria.

    And that’s good for the brain. Trillions of good bacteria live in the gut. They fend off bad germs and keep your immune system in check, which means they help tame inflammation in the body. Some gut germs even help make brain-powering B vitamins.
    Foods with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) help maintain a healthy gut environment, or « biome. » « A healthier microbiome is going to decrease inflammation, which affects mood and cognition, » Ramsey says.
    A high-fat or high-sugar diet is bad for gut health and, therefore, your brain. Some research hints that a high-sugar diet worsens schizophrenia symptoms, too.

    Article: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=190177

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    Mother’s Perception of General Family Functioning and Sugar Consumption of 3- and 4-Year-Old Children: The East London Family Study

    Frequent consumption of sugary foods is a common risk factor for chronic diseases such as dental caries and obesity. Dietary patterns are acquired at home during early life and form a blueprint for dietary behaviours in later life. A favourable family environment can provide a supportive context that enhances the adoption of healthy dietary habits.

    The aim of this study was to identify the contribution of general family functioning towards the frequent consumption of sugary foods by 3- and 4-year-old children in Outer North East London.

    The research question was explored with data from the East London Family study, which collected data through home visits from a representative sample of adults and children living in Outer North East London in 2008-2010. This study analysed data from 3- and 4-year-old children (n = 698) and their mothers and included logistic regression, conceptual hierarchical modelling and mediation analysis.

    he results showed that 17% of the sample consumed sugary foods more than 4 times per day, and that effective general family functioning may help reducing frequent consumption of sugary foods. There was a 67% reduction in children’s frequent consumption of sugary foods with every unit increase in the general family functioning score.

    Mother’s higher education may also help reduce the frequent consumption of sugary foods by children. The negative impact of mother’s lower education was buffered by the effect of effective general family functioning. The study findings underscore the prospect of identifying factors that contribute to the acquisition of good dietary behaviours.

    Nanjappa, S., Hector, M. and Marcenes, W. (2015). Mother’s Perception of General Family Functioning and Sugar Consumption of 3- and 4-Year-Old Children: The East London Family Study. Caries Research, 49(5), pp.515-522.

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    A diet of a type traditional in Mediterranean countries, characterized especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein confer health benefits.

    Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study
    Objective To examine whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomere length, a biomarker of aging.

    The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and grains (mainly unrefined); a high intake of olive oil but a low intake of saturated lipids; a moderately high intake of fish; a low intake of dairy products, meat, and poultry; and a regular but moderate intake of alcohol (specifically wine with meals). Observational studies and intervention trials have consistently shown the health benefits of a high degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, including reduction of overall mortality; reduced incidence of chronic diseases, especially major cardiovascular diseases; and increased likelihood of healthy ageing.

    Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that undergo attrition each time a somatic cell divides. Telomeres prevent the loss of genomic DNA at the ends of linear chromosomes and in turn protect their physical integrity. Telomere attrition has been shown to be accelerated by oxidative stress and inflammation. Telomere length is considered to be a biomarker of aging; shorter telomeres are associated with a decreased life expectancy and increased rates of developing age related chronic diseases. Telomere length decreases with age and varies considerably among individuals.15 Studies suggest that telomere attrition is modifiable, as substantial variability exists in the rate of telomere shortening that is independent of chronological age. Therefore, variability of telomere length may be partially explained by lifestyle practices, including dietary patterns. As accelerated telomere attrition may underlie many chronic diseases, identifying modifiable factors that affect telomere dynamics is important.

    Given that fruits, vegetables, and nuts, key components of the Mediterranean diet, have well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and that telomere length is affected by both of these processes, we hypothesized that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet would be associated with longer telomere length. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to examine the association between greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet and leukocyte telomere length in US women within the Nurses’ Health Study cohort. For comparison, we also evaluated the association between other existing dietary patters (prudent pattern, Western pattern, and Alternative Healthy Eating Index) and leukocyte telomere length.

    Conclusion In this large study, greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomeres. These results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity.

    Crous-Bou, M., Fung, T., Prescott, J., Julin, B., Du, M., Sun, Q., Rexrode, K., Hu, F. and De Vivo, I. (2014). Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ, 349(dec02 5), pp.g6674-g6674.

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    600 Reasons Turmeric May Be The World’s Most Important Herb

    There is a medicinal spice so timelessly interwoven with the origins of human culture and metabolism, so thoroughly supported by modern scientific inquiry, as to be unparalleled in its proven value to human health and well-being.

    Indeed, turmeric turns the entire drug-based medical model on its head. Instead of causing far more side effects than therapeutic ones, as is the case for most patented pharmaceutical medications, turmeric possesses hundreds of potential side benefits, having been empirically demonstrated to positively modulate over 160 different physiological pathways in the mammalian body.

    While no food or herb is right for everyone, and everything has the potential for unintended, adverse side effects, turmeric is truly unique in its exceptionally high margin of safety vis-à-vis the drugs it has been compared with, e.g. hydrocortisone, ibuprofen, chemotherapy agents. Furthermore, nothing within the modern-day pharmaceutical armamentarium comes even remotely close to turmeric’s 6,000 year track record of safe use in Ayurvedic medicine.

    Despite its vast potential for alleviating human suffering, turmeric will likely never receive the FDA stamp of approval, due to its lack of exclusivity, patentability and therefore profitability. Truth be told, the FDA’s « gold standard » for proving the value of a prospective medicinal substance betrays the age old aphorism: « he who owns the gold makes the rules, » and unless an investor is willing to risk losing the 800+ million dollars that must be spent upfront, the FDA-required multi-phased double-blind, randomized clinical trials will not occur. For additional details on this rather seedy arrangement read our article on the topic: Why The Law Forbids The Medicinal Use of Natural Substances.

    Here at GreenMedInfo.com, we have reviewed over 5,000 study abstracts from the National Library of Medicine’s bibliographic database known as MEDLINE and have discovered over 600 potential health benefits of turmeric, and/or its primary polyphenol known as curcumin. These can be viewed on our turmeric research page which is dedicated to disseminating the research on the topic to a larger audience.

    Some of the most amazing demonstrated properties include:
    • Destroying Multi-Drug Resistant Cancer
    • Destroying Cancer Stem Cells (arguably, the root of all cancer)
    • Protecting Against Radiation-Induced Damage
    • Reducing Unhealthy Levels of Inflammation
    • Protecting Against Heavy Metal Toxicity
    • Preventing and Reversing Alzheimer’s Disease Associated Pathologies

    Again, what is so amazing is not that turmeric may have value in dozens of health conditions simultaneously, or that it may improve conditions that are completely resistant to conventional treatment, but that there are over six hundred additional health conditions it may also be valuable in preventing and/or treating. Consider also the fact that turmeric grows freely on the Earth, and you will understand why its very existence threatens billions of dollars in pharmaceutical industry revenue.

    Article: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/600-reasons-turmeric-may-be-worlds-most-important-herb

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    Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK

    The objective of this study was to estimate the difference in dietary GHG emissions between self-selected meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK
    In conclusion, dietary GHG emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans. It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.

    Scarborough, P., Appleby, P., Mizdrak, A., Briggs, A., Travis, R., Bradbury, K. and Key, T. (2014). Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. Climatic Change, 125(2), pp.179-192.

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    Rural Food and Physical Activity Assessment Using an Electronic Tablet-Based Application, New York, 2013–2014

    We used an electronic tablet-based community assessment tool to conduct built environment audits in rural settings. The primary objective of this qualitative study was to evaluate the usefulness of the tool in identifying barriers and facilitators to healthy eating and active living. The second objective was to understand resident perspectives on community features and opportunities for improvement.
    Conclusion
    An electronic tablet–based tool can be used to assess rural food and physical activity environments and may be useful in identifying and prioritizing resident-led change initiatives. This resident-led assessment approach may also be helpful for informing and evaluating rural community-based interventions.

    Seguin, R., Morgan, E., Connor, L., Garner, J., King, A., Sheats, J., Winter, S. and Buman, M. (2015). Rural Food and Physical Activity Assessment Using an Electronic Tablet-Based Application, New York, 2013–2014. Preventing Chronic Disease, 12.

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    “Ce sont ceux qui savent peu, et pas ceux qui en savent beaucoup, qui affirment si positivement que tel ou tel problème ne sera jamais résolu par la science.” -Charles Darwin

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    Aucun Enfant Ne Devrait Grandir Sans Amour

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  5. « Melocoton » par Colette Magny / Album: Melocoton (1965)

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    Albert Einstein on Fairy Tales & Education

    Extract:

    “How far superior an education that stresses independent action and personal responsibility is to one that relies on drill, external authority and ambition.”

    Albert Einstein, celebrated as “the quintessential modern genius,” is credited with many things — from era-defining scientific discoveries to great wisdom on everything from creativity to kindness to war to the secret to learning anything. Among them is also a sentiment of admirable insight yet questionable attribution: In Christopher Frayling’s 2005 book Mad, Bad and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema, Einstein is credited as having said:
    “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

    Article: http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/14/einstein-fairy-tales/

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    Asterix et Obélix Chez Les Bretons (1986)

    Ulysse 31

    Jeunesses Hitlériennes [2017] – Documentaire Colorisé [Extrait]

    Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque (1986) / Wiki: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Seiya_(s%C3%A9rie_t%C3%A9l%C3%A9vis%C3%A9e_d%27animation)

    Psychologists investigate whether fictional characters can help our self development

    Extract:

    « Researchers led by Randi Shedlosky-Shoemaker may have some answers. Their paper, “Self-Expansion through Fictional Characters” rests on the concept of parasocial relationships—a relatively new construct in the social sciences that is becoming increasingly relevant in our media-saturated age.

    While there is a clear, bright line between real people and imaginary people (I exist, Hermione Granger does not), there is no such line dividing real and imaginary relationships. (As far as you are concerned, dear reader, both Ms. Granger and I are studious women who exist only on the page or screen.)

    Even in our most intimate personal relationships, we are often interacting with a mental model of our partner or parent, imagining their current state of mind, or how they would respond to whatever situation we find ourselves in.

    Although operationalised in this article as relationships with fictional characters, other researchers have included connections with real people whom we don’t personally know (artists, politicians, athletes) and historical figures in the spectrum of parasocial relationships… »

    Link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298868.2014.882269

    Tintin : (i) L’Île Noire (1938) / Info: http://fr.tintin.com/albums/show/id/7/page/0/0/l-ile-noire

    Tintin : (iii) L’Affaire Tournesol (1936) / Info: http://fr.tintin.com/albums/show/id/18/page/0/0/l-affaire-tournesol

    « A L’Ombre de Tintin (2016) » / Ce documentaire passionnant révèle des archives exceptionnelles des Studio Hergé et de Moulinsart SA

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    Hippocampal Shape Maturation in Childhood and Adolescence

    Abstract:

    The hippocampus is a subcortical structure critical for learning and memory, and a thorough understanding of its neurodevelopment is important for studying these processes in health and disease. However, few studies have quantified the typical developmental trajectory of the structure in childhood and adolescence. This study examined the cross-sectional age-related changes and sex differences in hippocampal shape in a multisite, multistudy cohort of 1676 typically developing children (age 1–22 years) using a novel intrinsic brain mapping method based on Laplace–Beltrami embedding of surfaces. Significant age-related expansion was observed bilaterally and nonlinear growth was observed primarily in the right head and tail of the hippocampus. Sex differences were also observed bilaterally along the lateral and medial aspects of the surface, with females exhibiting relatively larger surface expansion than males. Additionally, the superior posterior lateral surface of the left hippocampus exhibited an age–sex interaction with females expanding faster than males. Shape analysis provides enhanced sensitivity to regional changes in hippocampal morphology over traditional volumetric approaches and allows for the localization of developmental effects. Our results further support evidence that hippocampal structures follow distinct maturational trajectories that may coincide with the development of learning and memory skills during critical periods of development.

    Lynch, K., Shi, Y., Toga, A. and Clark, K. (2018). Hippocampal Shape Maturation in Childhood and Adolescence. Cerebral Cortex, 29(9), pp.3651-3665.

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    Cultural variation in the gray matter volume of the prefrontal cortex is moderated by the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4)

    Abstract:

    Recent evidence suggests a systematic cultural difference in the volume/thickness of prefrontal regions of the brain. However, origins of this difference remain unclear. Here, we addressed this gap by adopting a unique genetic approach. People who carry the 7- or 2-repeat (7/2-R) allele of the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) are more sensitive to environmental influences, including cultural influences. Therefore, if the difference in brain structure is due to cultural influences, it should be moderated by DRD4. We recruited 132 young adults (both European Americans and Asian-born East Asians). Voxel-based morphometry showed that gray matter (GM) volume of the medial prefrontal cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex was significantly greater among European Americans than among East Asians. Moreover, the difference in GM volume was significantly more pronounced among carriers of the 7/2-R allele of DRD4 than among non-carriers. This pattern was robust in an alternative measure assessing cortical thickness. A further exploratory analysis showed that among East Asian carriers, the number of years spent in the U.S. predicted increased GM volume in the orbitofrontal cortex. The present evidence is consistent with a view that culture shapes the brain by mobilizing epigenetic pathways that are gradually established through socialization and enculturation.

    Yu, Q., Abe, N., King, A., Yoon, C., Liberzon, I. and Kitayama, S. (2018). Cultural variation in the gray matter volume of the prefrontal cortex is moderated by the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4)Cultural variation in the gray matter volume of the prefrontal cortex is moderated by the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4). Cerebral Cortex, 29(9), pp.3922-3931.

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    The Role of Corticostriatal Systems in Speech Category Learning

    Abstract:

    One of the most difficult category learning problems for humans is learning nonnative speech categories. While feedback-based category training can enhance speech learning, the mechanisms underlying these benefits are unclear. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated neural and computational mechanisms underlying feedback-dependent speech category learning in adults. Positive feedback activated a large corticostriatal network including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobule, middle temporal gyrus, caudate, putamen, and the ventral striatum. Successful learning was contingent upon the activity of domain-general category learning systems: the fast-learning reflective system, involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that develops and tests explicit rules based on the feedback content, and the slow-learning reflexive system, involving the putamen in which the stimuli are implicitly associated with category responses based on the reward value in feedback. Computational modeling of response strategies revealed significant use of reflective strategies early in training and greater use of reflexive strategies later in training. Reflexive strategy use was associated with increased activation in the putamen. Our results demonstrate a critical role for the reflexive corticostriatal learning system as a function of response strategy and proficiency during speech category learning.

    Yi, H., Maddox, W., Mumford, J. and Chandrasekaran, B. (2014). The Role of Corticostriatal Systems in Speech Category Learning. Cerebral Cortex, 26(4), pp.1409-1420.

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    Language Control in Bilinguals: Monitoring and Response Selection

    Abstract:

    Language control refers to the cognitive mechanism that allows bilinguals to correctly speak in one language avoiding interference from the nontarget language. Bilinguals achieve this feat by engaging brain areas closely related to cognitive control.

    However, 2 questions still await resolution: whether this network is differently engaged when controlling nonlinguistic representations, and whether this network is differently engaged when control is exerted upon a restricted set of lexical representations that were previously used (i.e., local control) as opposed to control of the entire language system (i.e., global control).

    In the present event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated these 2 questions by employing linguistic and nonlinguistic blocked switching tasks in the same bilingual participants.

    We first report that the left prefrontal cortex is driven similarly for control of linguistic and nonlinguistic representations, suggesting its domain-general role in the implementation of response selection.

    Second, we propose that language control in bilinguals is hierarchically organized with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex/presupplementary motor area acting as the supervisory attentional system, recruited for increased monitoring demands such as local control in the second language. On the other hand, prefrontal, inferior parietal areas and the caudate would act as the response selection system, tailored for language selection for both local and global control.

    Branzi, F., Della Rosa, P., Canini, M., Costa, A. and Abutalebi, J. (2015). Language Control in Bilinguals: Monitoring and Response Selection. Cerebral Cortex, 26(6), pp.2367-2380.

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    A Prolegomenon to the Construct of the Native Speaker: Heritage Speaker Bilinguals are Natives Too!

    Abstract:

    This Forum challenges the generally accepted position in the linguistic sciences—conscious or not—that monolingualism and nativeness are essentially synonymous in an exclusive way. We discuss two consequences of our position that naturalistic bilinguals and multilinguals exposed to a language in early childhood are also native speakers: (i) that bi-/multilinguals have multiple native languages; and (ii) nativeness can be applicable to a state of linguistic knowledge that is characterized by significant differences to the monolingual baseline.

    Rothman, J. and Treffers-Daller, J. (2014). A Prolegomenon to the Construct of the Native Speaker: Heritage Speaker Bilinguals are Natives Too!. Applied Linguistics, 35(1), pp.93-98.

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    « Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain. » ― Santiago Ramón y Cajal

    “Progress is impossible without change, & those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” -GB Shaw

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    High-Expanding Regions in Primate Cortical Brain Evolution Support Supramodal Cognitive Flexibility

    Abstract:

    Primate cortical evolution has been characterized by massive and disproportionate expansion of a set of specific regions in the neocortex. The associated increase in neocortical neurons comes with a high metabolic cost, thus the functions served by these regions must have conferred significant evolutionary advantage. In the present series of analyses, we show that evolutionary high-expanding cortex – as estimated from patterns of surface growth from several primate species – shares functional connections with different brain networks in a context-dependent manner. Specifically, we demonstrate that high-expanding cortex is characterized by high internetwork functional connectivity; is recruited flexibly over many different cognitive tasks; and changes its functional coupling pattern between rest and a multimodal task-state. The capacity of high-expanding cortex to connect flexibly with various specialized brain networks depending on particular cognitive requirements suggests that its selective growth and sustainment in evolution may have been linked to an involvement in supramodal cognition. In accordance with an evolutionary-developmental view, we find that this observed ability of high-expanding regions – to flexibly modulate functional connections as a function of cognitive state – emerges gradually through childhood, with a prolonged developmental trajectory plateauing in young adulthood.

    Sneve, M., Grydeland, H., Rosa, M., Paus, T., Chaplin, T., Walhovd, K. and Fjell, A. (2018). High-Expanding Regions in Primate Cortical Brain Evolution Support Supramodal Cognitive Flexibility. Cerebral Cortex, 29(9), pp.3891-3901.

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    Scientists discover 1,000 new “intelligence genes”

    Intelligence is associated with important economic and health-related life outcomes1. Despite intelligence having substantial heritability2 (0.54) and a confirmed polygenic nature, initial genetic studies were mostly underpowered3,4,5. Here we report a meta-analysis for intelligence of 78,308 individuals. We identify 336 associated SNPs (METAL P < 5 × 10−8) in 18 genomic loci, of which 15 are new. Around half of the SNPs are located inside a gene, implicating 22 genes, of which 11 are new findings. Gene-based analyses identified an additional 30 genes (MAGMA P < 2.73 × 10−6), of which all but one had not been implicated previously. We show that the identified genes are predominantly expressed in brain tissue, and pathway analysis indicates the involvement of genes regulating cell development (MAGMA competitive P = 3.5 × 10−6). Despite the well-known difference in twin-based heritability2 for intelligence in childhood (0.45) and adulthood (0.80), we show substantial genetic correlation (rg = 0.89, LD score regression P = 5.4 × 10−29). These findings provide new insight into the genetic architecture of intelligence.

    Sniekers, S., Stringer, S., Watanabe, K., Jansen, P., Coleman, J., Krapohl, E., Taskesen, E., Hammerschlag, A., Okbay, A., Zabaneh, D., Amin, N., Breen, G., Cesarini, D., Chabris, C., Iacono, W., Ikram, M., Johannesson, M., Koellinger, P., Lee, J., Magnusson, P., McGue, M., Miller, M., Ollier, W., Payton, A., Pendleton, N., Plomin, R., Rietveld, C., Tiemeier, H., van Duijn, C. and Posthuma, D. (2017). Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals identifies new loci and genes influencing human intelligence. Nature Genetics, 49(7), pp.1107-1112.

  6. Clinical Psychology: Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, Depression & Schizophrenia and the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy

    CAMHS deal with the psychological issues of people under the age of 18. They are a non-specialist service and often refer to other more specialised departments following the initial assessment of patients. The most common cases tend to be adolescents with depression and anxiety whose manifestations are not different to those of adults and so are treated fairly similarly.

    Inclusivism in Learning Disabilities

    In 1969, Bengt Nirje adopted and developed the concept of normalisation in Sweden and beautifully described it as…
    “making available to all mentally retarded people patterns of life and conditions of everyday living which are as close as possible to the regular circumstances and ways of life of society.”

    – Nirje, 1980

    Learning Disability is not just an impairment in Cognition

    The social impairment of Learning Disabilities – US Statute 111 – 256: Rosa’s Law defines the factual impairment, the imposed or acquired disability and the awareness of being different.

    The Normalisation Theory

    This theory focuses on the mainstream social trends of social devaluation or deviancy making. Some categories of people tend to be valued negatively due to their behaviours, appearances and characteristics, and this places them at the risk of being devalued [according to the Normalisation Theory of Nirje on the societal processes he assumed] – people fulfil various social roles and stereotypes. As part of the deviancy making or social devaluation, the unsophisticated minds of the masses generally do not mean to stereotype, however they seem to do it unconsciously [the unconscious is a concept Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan acknowledged in their psychoanalytic theories of mental/psychological activity and its disorders land mental health problems linked to psychopathic tendencies in people towards others], i.e. deviant groups with social symbols or images that are at a higher risk of being devalued are the focus of the normalisation theory, which is believed to be done with the aim of providing them with the skills they need and eventually change the status of these deviant groups.

    Society tends to distance itself from deviant groups without any purpose or belonging, however psychologists provide support for the social integration and valued social participation of people with learning disabilities through exercises that involve learning through imitation. This challenges stereotypes within wider society through direct experiences of spending time with people who are affected by learning disabilities.

    While psychology evolves and sophisticated and modern theories about intelligence and communication such as our « Organic Theory » take shape, we hope that observations such as this one may be digested and understood by the masses, that is:

    « While the communicative patterns [language] in human primates vary with socio-behavioural and geographical patterns; creativity and IQ remain constant and do not change. Intelligence and creativity cannot be stopped because of linguistic differences, since talented and gifted humans do not choose the location of their birth nor their linguistic heritage but still contribute to the enhancement of our civilisation. »

    Which concludes that that the intelligence of an invidual when assessed on a range of variables [e.g. perception, fluid intelligence, reasoning, emotional intelligence, courage, etc] cannot be deduced by simply assessing their academic abilities, since human life has various sides to itself. Hence, the true worth and value of an individual may always remain a problem and a mystery to fully assess, and this seems to go in line with Jean Piaget’s deduction about the uniqueness of the human organism and mind.

    Full Article: https://dpurb.com/2018/07/02/clinical-psychology-learning-disabilities-anxiety-depression-schizophrenia-and-the-effectiveness-of-psychotherapy/

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  7. « Aux personnes frustrées et intellectuellement désespérant, qui ne savent toujours pas pourquoi ils se lèvent chaque matin et quel héritage ils ont l’intention de quitter lorsqu’ils meurent:

    « Vous devez apprendre l’art de vous taire quand il n’y a rien à dire, surtout devant un être supérieur intellectuellement. Il faut comprendre que les individus ne sont pas et n’ont jamais été égaux en matière de compétences. Pensez à retourner à l’école et quand vous le faites, apprenez l’art de poser les bonnes questions. Parce que la façon dont vous voyez les choses n’est pas la façon dont le monde fonctionne, en d’autres termes, ce que vous voyez n’est pas ce que vous obtenez. » – Danny J. D’Purb

    Traduction(EN): « To the frustrated and intellectually hopeless people who still do not know why they wake up every morning and what legacy they intend to leave when they die:

    « You have to learn the art of silence when there is nothing to say, especially in front of individuals who are superior intellectually. It must be understood that individuals are not and have never been equal in terms of skills. Go back to school and when you do, learn the art of asking the right questions. Because the way you see things is not the way the world works, in other words, what you see is not what you get. » -Danny J. D’Purb

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    « N’ayez pas peur de la grandeur: certains hommes naissent grands, certains atteignent la grandeur et certains ont la grandeur poussée sur eux. » -William Shakespeare

    Traduction(EN): « Be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. » -William Shakespeare

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