Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Attachment Connection by Ruth P Newton PhD

Today I finished reading The Attachment Connection by Ruth Newton, PhD.  I was so engrossed by this book, actually, that I missed my T stop on the way to go work out this morning!  So "finished" may be a bit of an understatement.

The book was exactly what I was looking for.  And I highly recommend parts of it in a few scenarios:

Chapters 1 and 2- AWESOME summary of some basic pediatric neuroscience with lit based references about how babies develop and why they need close connections with their parents.  It was detailed enough to not feel "dumbed down," but simple enough that anyone could read it, even if they're not "the scientific type."  I'd recommend these two chapters for anyone who's a parent or wants to understand parenting and considers themselves a bit of a nerd about it, wanting to know the science behind it.

Chapter one highlights the differences between securely attached (this is what you're aiming for), insecure-avoidant (don't approach parent for reassurance, even when they want it), insecure-ambivalent (seek out parent, but get confused and angry because parent isn't reliable/consistent), and disorganized (inconsistent, no pattern) children.  There are case examples and a history of early attachment literature.

Chapter two goes through details of all the brain parts-- The left hemisphere controlling language and the right hemisphere being associated with body regulation, control of emotions, etc.  It also talks us through the amygdala (which integrates info from threat/fear/anger), the sympathetic nervous system (stress, threat), the parasympathetic nervous system (involved in calming and sleep), and the orbitofrontal cortex.  Chapter two focuses on how parents help regulate their infant/toddler's emotions before the child is able to do so independently through synchrony and resonance with the child's feelings and actions.

Chapters 3-12 apply all of these theories to different age ranges, starting with pregnancy and slowly ramping up to 4 year olds.  There are, again, case examples as well as literature citations explaining his thoughts and theories.  I'll be honest, I skimmed most of these chapters-- there are boxes highlighting what children can do at each age group, which I've read thoroughly in other sources.  And I wasn't really in the mood to read about 3 year olds!  (I did read the two month chapter word for word though). I think these chapters are an excellent overview of ages/stages of development if there's someone out there who hasn't gotten this info from another source yet.

Chapter 13... controversial chapter 13.  This one talks about the day care controversy, highlighting the drama that came in the news when early articles in the 70s and 80s said that children who'd spent time in day care were more aggressive than those cared for by their mothers.  And when she introduced the topic, I thought for sure she was going to debunk that myth.  But she didn't.  She addressed it relatively politically correctly, but does come to the conclusion that
   "1. The quality of parenting predicted higher levels of social skills and positive social-emotional outcomes than did child care experience.
    2. Children in higher quality center-based care had higher vocabulary scores in fifth grade than children in lower quality center-based child care.
    3. Children with more center-based care, in particular, had more behavioral problems in sixth grade."
Definitely the scientific argument for staying home as much as possible within the first 3 years of your child's life.  Hm...

My favorite nugget from the book came all the way up in chapter two, though, when she was talking about sides of the brain.  She explained how infants and toddlers are predominantly right brained during years 0-3 while they're pre-verbal or have low levels of verbal communication.  And that parents (and adults in general) responded to children in this age group first with their right brains.  Additionally, due to the way our eyes and brains are connected, inputs from the left are processed in the right brain and vice versa.  Thus, when one craddles their child on the left side, they are unknowingly connecting the child's right brain (left visual field) with their own right brain (left visual field).  And did you know that 83% of right handed and 78% of left handed mothers craddle their babies naturally on the left?  hm...

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