Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children

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Learning Love

Parents alone should not feel that they are the only ones that can make these neural cells click. Young children benefit a great deal from interacting with multiple caregivers -- each who offer something different in learning experiences and love.  Nowadays, families average only four persons to a house and on top of that, siblings typically sleep in separate bedrooms. They have their own TVs and computer games. As our world becomes more compartmentalized, the quality and quantity of time with family and friends becomes more important than ever before.

So what happens if a baby does not get the quality social interaction and loving that they need in the first few years of life?  The young child's undeveloped brain is trained in a 'use dependent' way, mirroring the pattern, timing, nature, frequency and quality of experience.  Think of it in terms of nutrition. If a baby is not fed consistent, predictable messages of love and communication, then those areas of the brain shut down and the child's capacity to function later in life is compromised.

Experiences in childhood act as the primary architects of the brain's capabilities throughout the rest of life. If these organizing childhood experiences are consistent, nurturing, structured and enriched, the child develops the ability to be flexible, responsible and a sensitive contributor to society as an adult.  However, if childhood experiences are neglectful, chaotic, even violent and abusive, the child could become aggressive, remorseless, and intellectually impoverished.

This course will explore the nature of attachment as well as the factors that influence or interfere with its development.  It will give special attention to the impact of child maltreatment on healthy attachment capabilities.  Finally, it will review strategies to help children whose early experiences deprive them of the essential human capacity to connect to others in optimal ways.






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