FAMILY: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
Neurobiology says mothers play vital role
, July 3, 2004
Contemporary feminists deny the vital role mothers play in the healthy development of babies and children.
Organisations such as the Australian Institute of Family Studies try hard to pretend that mothers are interchangeable with "stay-at-home Dads" (a species that has never numbered more than a few) or with "community child-care centres" where even small babies would be cared for by strangers.
But mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. Each has a special role to play in the lives of children.
Scientific evidence for this was presented to the World Congress of Families III, held earlier this year in Mexico City, by Christine De Vollmer, president of the Latin-America Alliance for the Family. She cited studies which demonstrate that the cerebral cortex of the human brain does not grow automatically but according to the stimulation received while it is in the main growth phase, i.e., during the first six years.Learning
That is why children who are taught to ride or ski at a very early age - or to program a VCR - do it better than others. Small children exposed to many languages learn them easily. The reason is that the cortex adapts to the demands of the stimulation and neurones are produced to respond to it.
Mrs De Vollmer pointed out: "More important than our skills is the development of the limbic system, which is that part of the cerebral cortex which governs the sense of self, emotions, self-control and a host of elements of a balanced and happy individual. New, non-invasive studies of brain development show that the cortico-limbic lobes also develop in response to stimulation - and that stimulation is the love and caresses of the baby's mother from the moment of birth. The main development of the limbic system takes place in the first four years.
She cited recent data on the human brain and human emotions from Dr Allan N. Schore's important study, Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development
. In it, Schore said:
"New discoveries establish the significance of those hours of mothers gazing at their babies. It seems a detectable energy flows from the mother's brain through her eyes into the baby's eyes and stimulates the baby's brain. The stimulation inherent in this 'transaction' causes neurochemical reactions involving secretions similar to endomorphines, which as well as causing growth, are very pleasurable. The baby loves the feeling and responds with looks and soon with smiles. Bonding takes place and the eyes of each are imprinted on each other's brain.
"A result of this process is that the mother learns to know exactly how much stimulation to give, and the studies indicate that there is an uncanny understanding on the part of mothers to know just how much to stimulate and when to calm. The tactile stimulation of her kisses, cooing and caresses also stimulate cortico-limbic growth. As the baby grows, the mother continues to require - with a sure sense - an increasing level of responses, which the baby loves to grow into. The bonding, and the mutual understanding of how much, how long and so on, seem to be somehow connected to all that mutual gazing from birth.
"Science now tells us without shadow of a doubt that mothers in constant contact with their babies are actually forming the baby's brain, particularly in the right hemispheric orbitofrontal cortex ... those cortico-limbic lobes and intricate connections which will determine his or her emotional well-being and sense of self for the remainder of his or her life."
Dr Schore's findings make obvious that the pro-family movement's emphasis on the importance of motherhood is not misplaced.
The second discovery - and this is alarming for mothers who rely on child-care centres - is that this brain growth cannot be achieved by part-time carers. These carers can attend well to physical needs, but not to early brain growth. Science has also established that if this stimulation is not given and the cortico-limbic lobes are not developed, the individual will grow up seriously deficient in all those areas of self that make him or her respond to others in appropriate ways.Columbine killings
Mrs De Vollmer mentioned the recent revelation that the main perpetrator of the Colombine massacre had spent many years in day care. He suffered from a cortical disability as identifiable as one who suffers from lack of development of the vision centre or whose mobility is impaired by damage to the mid brain.
We all recall those tragic PET (positron emission tomography) scans of the Romanian orphans whose brains were in large part inactive, where no stimulation had been given. Children need to be with their mothers during those crucial first years of life if they are to develop healthy emotional systems.
In view of this evidence, Australian voters should ask their Federal MPs and Senators to study the latest in neurobiology and ensure that child-care funding is given direct to mothers and not as subsidies to child-care centres.
- Babette Francis is national and overseas co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.