Is Civilization Psychologically Damaging, or Just American Culture?

From ScienceDaily:

Three new studies led by Notre Dame Psychology Professor Darcia Narvaez show a relationship between child rearing practices common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies (how we humans have spent about 99 percent of our history) and better mental health, greater empathy and conscience development, and higher intelligence in children.

“Our research shows that the roots of moral functioning form early in life, in infancy, and depend on the affective quality of family and community support,” says Narvaez, who specializes in the moral and character development of children.

The three studies include an observational study of the practices of parents of three-year-olds, a longitudinal study of how certain child rearing practices relate to child outcomes in a national child abuse prevention project, and a comparison study of parenting practices between mothers in the U.S. and China. The longitudinal study examined data from the research of another Notre Dame psychologist, John Borkowski, who specializes in the impact of child abuse and neglect on development.

The results of Narvaez’ three studies as well as those from researchers around the world will be presented at a conference at Notre Dame in October titled “Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness.”

“The way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well being and a moral sense,” she says.

Narvaez identifies six characteristics of child rearing that were common to our distant ancestors:

  • Lots of positive touch — as in no spanking — but nearly constant carrying, cuddling and holding;
  • Prompt response to baby’s fusses and cries. You can’t “spoil” a baby. This means meeting a child’s needs before they get upset and the brain is flooded with toxic chemicals. “Warm, responsive caregiving like this keeps the infant’s brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,” Narvaez says.
  • Breastfeeding, ideally 2 to 5 years. A child’s immune system isn’t fully formed until age 6 and breast milk provides its building blocks.
  • Multiple adult caregivers — people beyond mom and dad who also love the child.
  • Free play with multi-age playmates. Studies show that kids who don’t play enough are more likely to have ADHD and other mental health issues.
  • Natural childbirth, which provides mothers with the hormone boosts that give the energy to care for a newborn.

The U.S. has been on a downward trajectory on all of these care characteristics, according to Narvaez. Instead of being held, infants spend much more time in carriers, car seats and strollers than they did in the past. Only about 15 percent of mothers are breastfeeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up, and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970.

Read more here.

8 Comments on "Is Civilization Psychologically Damaging, or Just American Culture?"

  1. Yeah, mostly americans…

  2. Yeah, mostly americans…

  3. Vox Penii | Sep 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm |

    In postmodern discourse, truth is rejected explicitly and consistency
    can be a rare phenomenon. Consider the following pairs of claims.
    * On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand,
    postmodernism tells it like it really is.
    * On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of
    respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely
    destructive and bad.
    * Values are subjective—but sexism and racism are really
    * Technology is bad and destructive—and it is unfair that
    some people have more technology than others.
    * Tolerance is good and dominance is bad—but when
    postmodernists come to power, political correctness

    There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one
    breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next. Postmodernists are well
    aware of the contradictions—especially since their opponents relish
    pointing them out at every opportunity. And of course a postmodernist
    can respond dismissingly by citing Hegel—’Those are
    merely Aristotelian logical contradictions‛—but it is one thing to
    say that and quite another to sustain Hegelian contradictions

    The pattern therefore raises the question of which side of the
    contradiction is deepest for postmodernism. Is it that postmodernists
    really are committed to relativism, but occasionally lapse into
    absolutism? Or are the absolutist commitments deepest and the
    relativism a rhetorical cover?

    Consider three more examples, this time of clashes between
    postmodernist theory and historical fact.
    * Postmodernists say that the West is deeply racist, but they
    know very well that the West ended slavery for the first
    time ever, and that it is only in places where Western ideas
    have made inroads that racist ideas are on the defensive.
    * They say that the West is deeply sexist, but they know very
    well that Western women were the first to get the vote,
    contractual rights, and the opportunities that most women
    in the world are still without.
    * They say that Western capitalist countries are cruel to their
    poorer members, subjugating them and getting rich off
    them, but they know very well that the poor in the West are
    far richer than the poor anywhere else, both in terms of
    material assets and the opportunities to improve their

  4. Vox Penii | Sep 27, 2010 at 1:24 pm |

    Source: Stephen Hicks, Ph.D., (2004) ”Explaining Postmodernism: Socialism and Skepticism from Rousseau to Foucault”. Scholargy Press

  5. This article has nothing to do with postmodernism.

    Unless you were being deliberately ironic, bringing up postmodernism in order to deny scientific and historical facts (Narvaez) with political theory (Hicks).

  6. Anonymous | Sep 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm |

    Ah, another divisive lecture on pointless topics. Does spouting irrelevent drivel make you feel intelligent?

    Is post-modernism a bad thing by your assessment? Are you capable of a personal opinion or do you plan to quote your way into relevence? You’re a text book of troll logic and you dwell beneath the rope bridge we all gingerly walk across to get to the other side.

    …..and whats on the other side? More bridges with (post)-modernist trolls living underneath.

  7. William Xavier McGarley | Sep 27, 2010 at 6:55 pm |

    Pre-posture-ous. All humanity have been specifically bred on factory farms to fulfil a life cycle bounded by 12 hour days in office parks ringed with an endless sea of concrete.

  8. William Xavier McGarley | Sep 27, 2010 at 2:55 pm |

    Pre-posture-ous. All humanity have been specifically bred on factory farms to fulfil a life cycle bounded by 12 hour days in office parks ringed with an endless sea of concrete.

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