Child abuse has lasting consequences

Disciplining children by physical means is still commonly accepted around the world. What many people still don’t understand is that this practice can serve as a prelude to an escalating pattern of child abuse.

Image result for child abuse

According to the United Nations, eleven percent of the world population lives in extreme poverty ­­­­–– make less than $1.90 a day––and therefore struggles to fulfill basic needs. Even though fewer people live in extreme poverty these days, almost half of the world’s population —3.4 billion people— still strives to meet their basic needs, the World Bank said in 2018.

Child abuse and neglect can result from the convergence of poverty, high levels of stress, low levels of education, and lack of parenting skills. In households where people are struggling to make ends meet, children’s basic physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are more often neglected.

Researchers have found that exposure to repeated stressors cause hormonal imbalances and activates an area in the brain called the limbic system. The mental status of the parents, the way they regulate emotions, end up affecting children. We need to be aware that brain development and mental health are the result of our interactions. When caregivers or teachers interact with children, they are impacting their brains. This, in essence, is how love becomes flesh, says author Louis Cozolino in his book “Neuroscience of Human Relations,” (W. W. Norton & Company; Second edition, 2014)

Childhood adversities, including neglect, and physical, verbal or emotional abuse, affect the child’s acquisition of skills, their social competence, and their capacity to respond empathically. And, what is worse is that studies have consistently found that any form of physical punishment is associated with future violence against caregivers, siblings, peers, and partners. However, researchers also found that children’s aggression was reduced by stopping harsh discipline.

When a child is born, he or she is equipped to naturally experience concern for another. But, as researchers have shown, deprived children or children exposed to any form of child abuse or trauma, have problems experiencing empathy or even recognizing emotions different from anger, which is a response typical of the fight-or-flight response to stress (resulting from the activation of the amygdala in the brain).

It’s therefore essential to set up policies in place to address the need for parenting education for all caregivers, as an effective child abuse preventative strategy.

Love talk

Couple communicating

Almost 25 years ago, Dr. Gary Chapman published his book The 5 Love Languages, which has become very popular. So, he proposed, we express love in different ways and if two people can’t speak the same love language, they can’t communicate, they can’t be happy, they might be in constant conflict.

However, we are not even conscious of our understanding of what love is or how we expect it to be expressed. And still, we wait for the other to share the same meaning, same perspective, and to express love the way we do.

The circumstances in which we grew up, the way we were raised, our family’s composition, our community and school, the impact of personal experiences, the media, are all factors that influence how we define love and relationships. They can affect our behavior, our feelings, our capacity to connect to another person, and even our learning processes. 

Couples’ therapist John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Harmony Books, 2000), has researched, written, and taught classes on how to predict if a marriage has a future and how to work for it. Based on the systematic observation of interactions between couples, Gottman drew conclusions about what obstacles interfere with harmony in a relationship, and he made recommendations on how to establish and strengthen intimacy and know each other more deeply.

When Gottman speaks of intimacy, he focuses as much on the erotic aspect of the relationship as on the empathy and compassion the couple could experience. To encourage them, he designed “love maps,” a series of questionnaires and games that fill in the gaps of information about how we define love, and what did we learn consciously or unconsciously about how to love. Since assumptions built from former personal experiences fill these gaps, there is a need for clarification and open communication about our beliefs and expectations. Assumptions feed the individual’s doubts and fears, usually generating misunderstandings and conflict.

If we seek to be in a relationship to satisfy emotional needs—such as a need for approval, company, or acceptance—our wants will be greater than the love we could offer. In our search, we would be regressing to that first stage of life, in which love is mostly egocentric, where I love you because I need you—possessively. This is the kind of love in which I want to become part of you to complete myself. Or, I would try to control you and mold you in order to satisfy my needs. 

The alternative is getting to know each other deeply, to clarify misunderstanding, to openly express needs and wants. The more you know about the other, the more comfortable love becomes, the less conflict will arise.