myth of natural instinct

The Surprising Power Of Praise In Challenging The Myth Of Natural Instinct

“In taking our marital arguments upstairs to avoid exposing the children to strife, we accidentally deprived them of chances to witness how two people who care about each other can work out their differences in a calm and reasoned way.”

–Po Bronson

The 2009 book, Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children, written by best-selling author Po Bronson and journalist Ashley Merryman challenges many current child-rearing philosophies, including the myth of natural instinct. It also challenges the myth of natural instinct. This popular book was on the New York Times best seller list for three months and has been translated into fifteen languages. Po Bronson has written a number of books on the subject of personal success and even a novel. Ashley Merryman is also an attorney, and has written a play in addition to having served as a speechwriter for Vice-President Al Gore. Both describe themselves as science journalists.

Worriers and Warriors

One of the challenges to the myth of natural instinct is brain research that indicates that genetics and brain chemistry play a large part in the way people respond to stress. In an interview, Bronson described how genetics determine the way in which the brain’s frontal cortex processes dopamine. He categorizes people as either “worriers” or “warriors” according to those genetic factors. According to Bronson, people with the “worrier” gene can have a cognitive advantage of up to ten point IQ advantage–when they aren’t stressed. Under normal conditions, worriers have a greater ability to think and plan ahead. With the introduction of stress, that advantage is significantly reduced.

Warriors tend to perform better under stress. One of the factors that determines whether a person is a warrior is the amount of testosterone the developing infant is exposed to in the womb. According to research, testosterone lengthens the fingers of the fetus, while estrogen limits their growth. The length of a person’s fingers can be one way to determine how they people will respond as adults to stress and the hormones it releases within the human body.

The Surprising Power of Praise in Challenging the Myth of Natural Instinct

The areas in which the book challenges the myth of human instinct are listed in a chapter synopsis. Chapter one addresses how a parent’s instinct to praise their child for being intelligent may be detrimental. The authors point to studies which show that being praised for specific actions and effort are more effective. For example, in one study, children who were praised for their efforts tended to choose harder puzzles than those praised for intelligence. Additionally, they showed a 30% improvement between the first and third tests. Conversely, the scores of those who were praised for intelligence decreased by 20%.

One of the reasons for these findings was that children praised for intelligence tend to take fewer risks that might jeopardize that initial assessment. It was found that teens often discounted such praise from teacher, and even equated it with veiled criticism. There was also a correlation between praise and the amount of time that students were able to spend concentrating on a task without seeking further approval. Heavily praised students often displayed less autonomy and less confidence in their answers. This can result in students dropping out rather than risking low grades.

The Myth of Natural Instinct in Competition, Praise and Lying

Another chapter makes a connection between praise and lying. According to the authors, respect for both the rules and other competitors is defined as “adaptive competition”. Maladaptive competition doesn’t allow for losing, which leads to behaviors such as lying and cheating due to the desire to win at any cost. In one study, students were told to rate themselves on report cards which would be sent to students at other schools whom they would never meet. It was found that 40 percent of the students who’d been praised for intelligence inflated their scores. That percentage was much lower among those who’d been praised for their efforts.

One of the reasons for cheating is the stigma associated with failure, which discourages children from developing strategies on how to deal with it successfully. Failure often provides greater opportunities for learning than success. Michigan scholar Jennifer Crocker believes that it’s essential to redefine the terms and not stigmatize the learning process by calling it “failure”.

Overcoming the Myth of Natural Instinct in Performance

According to Dr. Robert Cloninger at Washington University in St. Louis “The key is intermittent reinforcement”. Studies revealed that the brain can learn that experiencing frustration can ultimately result in reward. His research located a neural network between the prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum of the brain that monitors its reward center. Dr. Cloninger believes that frequent rewards can result in less persistence. Intermittent rewards result in switching on the neural network that serves to anticipate future rewards based on continued effort.

An excerpt of the book provides case studies that illustrate some of the principles set forth in the book that challenge the myth of natural instinct. It seems that giving children that “A” for effort might be more important than we’d ever realized, and can result in an increased ability to learn.

myth of natural instinct
Syrian refugee children in a Lebanese school classroom, wikipedia cc2.0

February 8,2016  |

clinical child psychologist

How Trauma Can Result in Inspiration Leading to Positive Change: Dr. Tanya Bryon

“Our distorted perception of young people creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: why bother to try when you are told that you are a failure? Why bother to strive when your existence is seen as a nuisance?”

–Clinical Child Psychologist Dr. Tanya Byron

Dr. Tanya Byron, born to film and television director and nurse and model Elfie Corbett, is more than your average clinical child psychologist. Photogenic and media savvy, she was professionally trained in psychology at University College London, and University of Surrey and North London Collegiate School, University of York, from which she received an honorary doctorate in 2009. She was inspired by both her parents and the tragic loss of her grandmother, who was murdered by an addict when Byron was only 15. Her Ph.D. thesis was titled “The evaluation of an outpatient treatment programme for stimulant drug misuse”.
For 18 years, she world for the British National Health Service as a clinical child psychologist in the field of drug addiction and mental disorders. That extensive experience informed the popular television shows, Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways. In addition to those shows, she collaborated with Jennifer Saunders in creating the sitcom The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle  for the BBC. Her media presence has extended to radio as well, including a program about psychiatry called All in the Mind.

Clinical Child Psychologist and Youth Advocate

In addition to her work as a clinical child psychologist, she is also an educational and political activist. She often advocates for young people and has expressed outrage over the fact that only 6% of the budget of the National Health Service is reserved for young people, despite being 25% of the population. She believes that adolescents and young adults represent 50% of mental health cases. In her view, money spent on early intervention can prevent chronic conditions that require costly long-term treatment from developing.
In a 2009 article written for the Guardian, she pointed out that society seems to have a fear of children, which she calls ephebiphobia, or the fear of youth. Her advocacy of youth includes calling for a more individualized educational system rather than one that encourages what she calls a herd mentality. Overcrowded classrooms can lead to mob behavior that increases society’s fear of youth. In her view, under the current system, nearly all young people could be classified as at-risk.


One Clinical Child Psychologist’s View of the Educational System

Ironically, in the view of this clinical child psychologist, part of being at-risk is the result of overprotective parents responding to media sensationalism and wanting to protect their children from dangers such as violent crime. Such protection comes at the cost of the risk-taking that is necessary to experience life fully. In an interview, she expressed concern that parents “are removing the possibility for children to learn how to be emotionally resilient.” She is equally concerned that the system rewards high scores on tests, which has the effect of preventing teachers from creating more innovative teaching methods and students from learning valuable independent thinking skills.

Due to these concerns as a clinical child psychologist, in 2007, she headed an independent review sponsored in part by the Department for Children, Schools and Family which researched the effects of internet and video games on children’s mental health. The results, referred to as the Byron Review, were published with the title “Safer Children in a Digital World” in 2008. Her advocacy for youth includes providing an educational alternative in the form of Edge Hill University, where she is a Professor of Public Understanding of Science, as well as serving as the school’s first chancellor. A patron of Prospex, North London charity which works with young people, she also partners in a media company. In her first book, The Skeleton Cupboard: The Making of a Clinical Psychologist, published in April of this year, she recounts many of the most interesting cases she has encountered during her career.

A New Age of Enlightenment

One of the most interesting things about Ms. Byron is that, even as a clinical child psychologist, she questions current definitions of sanity and insanity in light of recent social trends. For example, in addition to questioning the effectiveness of the current educational system, she also believes that litigation and paranoia abound in Western society. Further she questions the wisdom of only rewarding “success´, for which society bestows high marks to students and money to adults, when failure is often a much better teacher. In her view, risk-taking is the key to both personal growth and positive social change. As humanity moves from the industrial to the technological age, positive change is something that many of our institutions are in need of if we are to make a successful transition into a new age of enlightenment.

clinical child psychologist

February 3,2016  |

appearance of natural instinct

It’s Not Nature Versus Nurture: It’s Nature Versus Culture

“Over and over again, cross-cultural research on infancy teaches the exact same lesson: infants can tolerate—and thrive under—care that most any Western parent would assume would end very badly.”

Nicholas Day

Biology and the Appearance of Natural Instinct

There are many biological realities associated with pregnancy, birth, and parenting that can pose as the appearance of natural instinct. For example, one of those biological mechanisms is the manufacture and release of estrogen and progesterone to prepare the uterus for pregnancy and fetal development. The hormone prolactin stimulates milk production and oxytocin helps initiate labor. Dopamine activates neural pathways that contribute to mutual bonding between parent and child.

Before scientists understood the role of biology and chemistry, these natural changes were often viewed as the appearance of natural instinct. However, despite the important role of biology, parenting behavior may play an even more important role in the development of a child’s brain. Studies have shown that cultural differences in parenting have an effect not only on brain development, but on social development as well.

Ethnopediatrics: Cultural Differences and the Appearance of Natural Instinct

In October 1994, Carol M. Worthman conducted a workshop at Emory University introducing the new science of ethnopediatrics. Ethnopediatrics is a branch of research devoted to understanding child-rearing practices within different cultures and historical contexts. It utilizes a number of disciplines including anthropology, psychology, child development research, and pediatrics. One of the premises of this new science is the continuum concept, which Jean Liedloff wrote about in her 1986 book, The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost . According to this theory, all humans have a set of expectations regarding how evolution enables them to achieve maximum mental, physical and emotional development and adaptability.

Meredith F pop over to this website. Small‘s 1999 book, Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent provides several case studies that illustrate the differences in parenting within a variety of cultures. She reaches several conclusions, one of which is that Western culture tends to focus more on individualism and independence rather than community and inter-dependence. The cultural value of independence is manifested in the practice of encouraging babies to sleep alone, while children sleeping with parents is viewed with suspicion as potentially pathological. Parents in many other cultures view infants sleeping alone as a form of child neglect.

The La Leche League, a long-time advocate of over-riding cultural pressures in favor of biological imperatives, gave the book a positive review. Another of her books pointed out the extent to which social institutions have agendas that affect the socialization process. As a result, parents often struggle between obeying cultural imperatives and respecting the appearance of natural instinct, thereby achieving a balance between the needs of children and those of the larger society.

Child-Centered Versus Adult-Centered Cultures

Many cultures are more child-centered than those of Western culture. One study compared the amount of crying of babies in Western cultures as compared to other cultures. It was found that in Western cultures, babies cried more and longer, and parents allowed more time to elapse before responding to their cries. The Western focus on individuality and independence has also resulted in fewer community and family-centered practices than some other cultures exhibit. For example, in Japan, pre-schools do not engage in competitive learning, but focus on cooperation as a cultural goal.

One article illustrates the extent to which parenting is shaped by the surrounding culture, and points out that even definitions of important concepts, such as “stimulation” differ from culture to culture. In Western culture, stimulation usually means intellectual, while in other cultures, the word has a more social meaning. Similarly, the definition of “intelligence” differs in that it includes social behavior as well as the degree of self-control displayed by the child.

Parental Ethnotheories and the Appearance of Natural Instinct

According to Sarah Harkness, a professor of human development at the University of Conneticut, there are many cultural differences in parenting. She refers to each society’s beliefs about the right way to raise children as its parental ethnotheories. The one shared characteristics of all these differing beliefs is the universal parental desire to want the best for their children. In her opinion, beliefs about child-rearing become evident from the way parents talk about their children and the words they use to describe them.

In one study, it was found that American parents referred to their children as intelligent. Italian parents, on the other hand, spoke of their children using positive terms that reflected their cultural tendency to value being pleasant and even-tempered over intelligence. The view on children asking questions was positive for both groups, but for different reasons. American parents viewed it as a sign of intelligence, while Italian parents viewed it as a sign of social skills. Dutch parents valued their children’s long attention spans and ability to adapt to regular routines. However, in Dutch culture, children asking questions is viewed negatively as a sign of excessive dependence.

It seems that the definition of good parenting is changing to include questioning cultural imperatives that conflict with the appearance of natural instinct.

appearance of natural instinct
Himba mother and child, Namibia, 2007 by Hans Hillewaert CC-BY-SA-4.0

February 1,2016  |

Nutritious Chemistry: The History of Maternal Milk, Wet-nursing and Infant Formula

“When we trust the makers of baby formula more than we do our own ability to nourish our babies, we lose a chance to claim an aspect of our power as women. Thinking that baby formula is as good as breast milk is believing that thirty years of technology is superior to three million years of nature’s evolution.”

Christine Northrup

Maternal Milk and Ancient Societies

Infant feeding rituals have been around for centuries. Surprisingly, the practice of wet nursing was recorded as early as 2000 BC and continues into this century. It began as a response to need, as mothers died during childbirth more often before the advent of modern medicine. Wet nursing was an organized and regulated profession throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In ancient Greek society, wet nurses utilized by wealthy women of the highest social class were highly valued and even granted authority over slaves. During the Roman Empire, wet nurses were often contracted to feed infants abandoned by the poor and purchased by the wealthy to serve as future slave labor. Such contracts were normally for 3 years.

Jacques Guillemeau, a 17th century French obstetrician, advocated women nursing their own children rather than using wet nurses. According to his theory, wet nursing could result in babies being switched, the child could form a stronger bond with the wet nurse than the natural parent, and her milk could transmit her genetic imperfections to the nursing infant. His advice was met with considerable resistance because the aristocracy believed that nursing ruined women’s figures in addition to being unfashionable.

The Development of Formula to Replace Maternal Milk

Before bottle feeding became common in the late 19th century, cows’ horns were among the many different devices used to deliver animal’s milk to infants. The use of unsterilized devices and the lack of refrigeration led to bacteria that resulted in the deaths of approximately one third of all babies fed artificially before they reached their first birthday. Nicholas Appert developed a food sterilization technique that utilized sealed containers in 1810.
Evaporated milk was patented by William Newton in 1835. 1n 1853, the addition of sugar resulted in the popular infant food called Eagle Brand Condensed Milk, still sold today. One of the first powdered formulas, called Liebig’s formula, consisted of cow’s milk, wheat and malt flour and potassium bicarbonate. While at the time, it was considered the perfect infant food, it was later revealed that many processed infant foods, while fattening, lacked sufficient nutritive value. Nutrients were added individually over time. The first rubber nipple was introduced in 1845.

Maternal Milk and Modern Economics

Many baby formula manufacturers developed aggressive advertising campaigns to promote their products as superior to maternal milk. Many believe that some of their methodology was unethical. For example, Nestle was accused of distributing free formula in hospitals, then charging for it once the mothers had stopped lactating as the result of bottle-feeding. Clean water to mix with the formula was often not available, resulting in infant deaths as the result of formula tainted by bacteria.

Bottle feeding fell out of favor during the 20th century as the result of studies showing that mother’s milk, in addition to being nutritionally superior, also contained immunization properties. At one point, the rate of breast-feeding had risen to 90%, but has since decreased within the 21st century to approximately 42%. The increasing necessity for both parents to work in order to provide for even their children’s most basic needs is partly responsible for this reversal. Many believe that aggressive advertising also downplays research which shows that formula-fed babies are more likely to develop atopy and diabetes mellitus, as well as being more susceptible to childhood obesity.

A Return to Maternal Milk

According to the World Health Organization, maternal milk from a donor is the next best option after a mother’s own breast milk, which has led to a resurgence in the age-old practice of wet-nursing. While genetic imperfections cannot be passed through nursing, infections can, which is why anyone intending to serve as a wet nurse should be thoroughly screened for infectious diseases. Additionally, because babies require different nutrients at different ages and the composition of women’s breast milk naturally accommodates those changing needs, it’s recommended that the wet-nurse have a child of approximately the same age.

Experts agree that bonding does indeed take place during the process of nursing. That’s one reason that cross nursing has been used by adoptive mothers to stimulate their own milk production. Scientific observations show that babies still know the difference between their own mothers and a wet nurse. Mother-infant bonding is not just the result of nursing, but of the infant being imprinted by the sound of her voice and facial expressions. One infant refused to suckle when his wet-nurse spoke because he did not connect the voice with the mother to whom he had emotionally bonded.

While science has significantly improved the quality of baby formula in recent years, all scientific evidence still concludes that maternal milk is best.


January 27,2016  |

child development stages

The Paradoxical Dimension Of Growth When Having Children With Disabilities : Soulful Closeness And Unshakable Respect For Life

According to the most recent statistics, one in 33 children in the U.S. is born with a birth defect. The March of Dimes global report estimates that 8 million children–6 percent of total births worldwide–are born with a birth defect. According to the report, the five most common genetic birth defects in the previous decade were congenital heart defects, neural tube defects, the hemoglobin disorders, Downs syndrome, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency.
While these five account for 25% of all genetic birth defects, over 7000 different birth defects have been identified. Many are caused by environmental agents, such as pollution, cancer-causing chemicals, war, and poverty. A chart shows the number of birth defects according to country. Tragically, approximately 3.3 million children under the age of 5 die each year due to birth defects. However, medical advances have made it possible for many not only to survive, but thrive.

The Role of Child Development Stages in Identifying Disability

Some physical disabilities are apparent at birth, but others may reveal themselves in specific child development stages as milestones are missed. Still others may be the result of accidents. Some parents report that it is more difficult to adjust to a sudden disability than one which is present from birth. Parenting is difficult under the best of circumstances and parenting a child with disabilities has its own set of challenges. One of the first challenges is dealing with the very real sense of grief that accompanies the knowledge that your child may experience pain and frustration associated with their disability. It is common for grief to be experienced at each of the child development stages.

In addition to grief, parents of children with disabilities also report experiencing guilt, anxiety, and anger, as well as worry regarding their child’s future. In cases of extreme physical disabilities that result in potentially life-threatening medical conditions, families must also make decisions regarding the extent to which science and technology may extend their lives. There is a very real economic impact on families as well, in terms of purchasing medical equipment, medications, or special foods.

However, love is a powerful force, and despite these challenges, many families report that the experience of having a family member with a disability has not only strengthened them as a family, but enriched their lives. They report experiencing more closeness, acceptance, and a greater respect for life. Additionally, support groups for children with disabilities in different child development stages provide opportunities for new friendships and a larger social support system.

Child Development Stages and Invisible Disabilities

While physical disabilities are often visible, other types of disabilities that are revealed in different child development stages are not. For example, it is estimated that 10% of the population has some form of learning disability. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 20 percent or one in five children between the ages of 13-18 in the U.S. experience a debilitating mental disorder. It is difficult to obtain global statistics, because many countries don’t report this data to the World Health Organization.

One of the most difficult and painful challenges that parents of children with disabilities face is, sadly, stigmatization and judgement from society. Often, in response to bullying or other forms of social rejection, parents can become understandably overprotective. The fact that children with disabilities are more vulnerable and at greater risk of mistreatment often contributes to the tendency towards being overprotective. Encouraging children with disabilities to reach their fullest potential is often made more difficult by a social and educational institutions created with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Public Education about Disabilities: Making the World Better for All Children

Fortunately, great strides have been made in educating the public and raising social awareness of disabilities. That education includes focusing on their capabilities rather than their limitations. Each and every child has their own specific talents and abilities that parents learn to recognize during child development stages. One of the most important, and enjoyable, aspects of parenting is assisting the child in developing those abilities to the fullest. Children with disabilities are no exception, and like all children, bring joy to the lives of their families and friends with every new achievement.

Global organizations that provide support for parents and their children exist for almost every type of disability. These organizations transcend borders, race, and nationality, uniting parents in a common purpose–increasing the quality of life for children. Parents of children with disabilities have learned a great deal about advocating for both equal rights and resources for their children. The examples of parent advocacy they’ve provided, and the results they’ve achieved, could very well lead the way for improving the quality of life not just for children with disabilities, but for all children.

child development stages

January 25,2016  |

Meaning of Kinship Bonds in a Matrilineal Primitive Society

“Just as love is an orientation which refers to all objects and is incompatible with the restriction to one object, so is reason a human faculty which must embrace the whole of the world with which man is confronted.”

–Erich Fromm

The Kongo Kingdom existed as an independent state for over 500 years, from 1390 to 1891. It covered the territory of what are now the African states of Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo, and portions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon. As a result of invasion and colonization by various other countries, including France, Portugal and the Netherlands, and rebellious uprisings against it, the territory and names of states in the area have changed more than once.

Ancient Traditions & Family Life in Kongo

Little, if any, written history about family life in the Kongo Kingdom before invasion and occupation by competing ideological and economic interests exists. However, resistant remnants of their formerly matrilineal society still exist, as evidenced by the greatest respect and responsibility for child care being bestowed upon the oldest brother of the child’s mother. While under the political control of other nations, many of the original kinship systems were abolished.

The many languages and dialects of the area also reflect their formerly matrilineal customs. Despite the abolition of matrilineal practices, through the many languages and dialects of the area, people continue to define themselves in reference to their mother’s clan. “Home” is defined as the village in which that clan is located, and family life in ancient Kongo society took place in these villages. Under subsequent governments, sections of each matrilineal clan were divided into landowning houses, with inheritance continuing to be passed through the female line in many places.

There are many words that reflect the kinship bonds that made up the societal structure of family life in ancient Kongo society. Those words have been passed down throughout history from generation to generation. For example, mpangi, the word for “siblings” is used to describe any two people of the same social status as the speaker. The word for “child”, mwana , is also used to describe a mother’s brother’s daughter. According to the reasoning behind the language, all cousins are considered siblings, much like some Indigenous American tribes such as the Crow.

The male leader of a matrilineal group or clan is referred to as a nkazi. His power is limited and most disputes that arise in family life in modern society are managed by committees consisting of members of members of both the maternal and paternal clans of the parties in question. Those committees can include children and grandchildren, and also represent their clans at important social functions such as weddings and funerals. The spokesman of the clan, called the nzonzi , is chosen for his ability to influence others through the use of authoritative cultural references, much like legal precedents are used in the courts of the Western world. All such communications between clans conclude with the exchange of food and gifts.

Art and Culture

While very little written history of family life in ancient Kongo society exists, some art has survived. In an article about the artwork of the Kongo people, Alisa LaGamma, curator of the exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, discussed the ways in which the artwork reflected the role of women in society. According to her, many of the pieces incorporate symbols of women in positions of leadership and social influence.

She says that much of the art depicting family life in their society was created in response to the threat to their way of life caused by the transatlantic slave trade. Many people also died as the result of epidemics of illnesses from foreign lands. Because of the large number of deaths, women, as sources of regeneration, had a great deal of responsibility for continuation of the culture. Some of the artwork was created with the dual practical purpose of providing assistance to women having children. Significantly, women are portrayed upon thrones and wearing traditionally male crowns.

The creation of art as a way to preserve one’s humanity in the face of oppression has a long historical tradition. However, the creation of art does require a certain amount of social and political stability, which much of the African continent had very little of during the demise of the Kingdom. Family life in war-torn countries is far too difficult to allow time for much more than survival. It is fortunate that at least these relatively few masterpieces survived so many generations of political turmoil.

Each culture provides a valuable piece of information necessary for the preservation of family life. When all of these pieces are assembled, they complete the grand puzzle of life to which all loving parents perpetually seek answers.

family life in Kongo
Kongo-Yombe Maternity Group, Democratic Republic of the Congo

January 20,2016  |

sperm donation

How Technology has Changed the Meaning of Family

The Creation of Family

For many single women and couples alike, artificial insemination has become an option for a variety of reasons. Single women who want to experience the joys of motherhood but haven’t found a suitable partner within the time allotted by their biological clocks are among them. Others have found suitable partners with less than viable sperm counts. Sperm donation is also often utilized by same-sex couples. Despite the continued controversy surrounding sperm donation, it has made parenthood possible for many for whom without it, would have never had the opportunity to create a loving family.

In the U.S., it is estimated that between 30,000 and 60,000 children are conceived through sperm donation and artificial insemination each year. These statistics are approximations because the fertility isn’t yet required to report statistics. According to current statistics in the United Kingdom , there has been a steady increase in the number of young people under age 25 registering as sperm donors, who account for a quarter of newly registered donors.

Controversies Surrounding Sperm Donation

Sperm donation has been controversial since its invention. Part of the reason for that was that the very first reported case of artificial insemination violated a number of ethical principles that most people adhere to. In that case, which took place in Philadelphia in 1884, a professor of medicine obtained sperm from his most physically attracted student and inseminated an anesthetized woman whose husband was sterile—without her consent! Global advances in women’s rights would make such a thing unthinkable today. However, there are still a number of objections to the practice of sperm donation.

Many of those objections are based in religious beliefs. Most religions prohibit practices which interfere with natural processes believed to be sanctioned by a creator. Sperm donation is among those prohibited practices. This prohibition is one of the reasons for the development of an “infertility belt” in areas of central and southern Africa, where preventable infections and poor nutrition often result in infertility. Poverty also prevents many people from utilizing other more costly options offered by modern technology, such as in vitro fertilization.

However, the controversy surrounding the practice of sperm donation is not just a religious one. For example, one article claims that children produced through artificial insemination suffer from identity confusion. Another article points to the potential for racism in choosing a sperm donor. Others point out that unlike the adoption process, the process of artificial insemination is still largely unregulated in comparison. For example, there is no screening process for prospective parents. Just as many adoptions are now “open”, allowing adopted children the option to know and develop relationships with their biological parents, some are calling for the same rights for children conceived through artificial insemination. In a survey, two-thirds of people questioned believed that donor offspring had a right to information about the donor.

Sperm Donation Regulation

Sperm banks have a screening process for donors, and some even have criteria for a minimum height. Others adhere to the World Health Organization’s guidelines for suitability regarding sperm samples. According to an article in Salon magazine, the cost of screening donors is partially responsible for the protocols in place, such as the requirement that donors agree to donate once a week for up to a year. The article also points out the ways in which practices surrounding male sperm donations versus female egg donations differ. For example, women donating eggs are required to speak to a mental health professional about potential issues of loss or guilt, while men donating sperm are not. Women are also held to stricter physical requirements. Additionally, the amount of payment can be affected by race. In this case, higher payments are made to non-white donors due to their relative scarcity.

However, no matter how much regulation is in place, mistakes can still happen. For example, in one recent highly publicized case, a woman received sperm from a donor of another race, when she had specifically chosen a blue-eyed, blond donor. When she sued the sperm bank, their attorney argued that her claim of “wrongful birth” couldn’t be sustained because a healthy child had been born. The court agreed. The parents of the beautiful, healthy mixed-race child now have to consider moving to a more diverse community for the safety and well-being of their child due to the high incidence of racism in their current community.

Rather than utilizing professional sperm banks, a growing number of people are choosing donors from among family and friends, thereby making the process more closely resemble an open adoption. One study showed that lesbian moms were most likely to choose sperm donors who are willing to be contacted someday.

Just as parents often struggle with whether, or when, to tell their adopted children that they were chosen, parents of children born of artificial insemination face the same struggle. While like adopted children, they may feel a need to seek out their birth parents, studies show that whatever their origin, children who are given time, attention, and love grow up to be happy and well- adjusted adults.

sperm donation


The Dance of Life: The Bond Between Mother and Child

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”

–Sophia Loren

The Senses and the Bond Between Mother and Child

In the animal world, the first bond between mother and child is that of scent. The mother’s secretion of estrogen and that of the child “match” perfectly. In nature, it is one of the ways that an animal is able to recognize its mother. In cases in which an animal has died while giving birth, farmers will often rub the baby animal with the placenta of another mother, which results in that mother accepting it as her own. However, the time in which this is possible is just two hours.

To test whether the same was true of humans, Lee Salk, a child psychologist, separated 115 mothers from their newborn babies for twenty-four hours after birth. 80 percent of the mothers who had contact with their babies within the first twenty-four hours of life held their babies on their left sides, close to the heart. Mothers that had been separated from their babies showed no preferred side for holding their babies.

After performing other tests which separated mothers and infants for longer periods of time, but not within the first twenty-four hours, he concluded that like other mammals, the strongest bond between mother and child may be formed within the first twenty-four hours. In another study, babies who were exposed to their mother’s regular heartbeat weighed more and cried less. If the heartbeat is irregular due to stress, babies respond accordingly by becoming restless.

In a study conducted in Sweden, forty mothers had skin-to-skin contact with their newborn infants during the first thirty minutes of life. The relationships between these infants and their mothers was observed three months later and compared to those of mothers and infants that had not experienced skin-to-skin contact immediately after the birth. The bond between mother and child seemed to be stronger in the first group, expressed by their facing one another for longer periods of time and fewer complaints by mothers regarding feeding times that interfered with sleep. These babies also cried less and smiled more.

The strong yet fragile bond between mother and child begins with the secretion of hormones during delivery, making the first hour after birth extremely important to the bonding process. The mother’s secretion of estrogen and that of the child “match” perfectly. Just as our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are affected by hormonal changes, the reverse is also true.

Socialization and the Bond Between Mother and Child

The production of hormones can also be triggered by our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Whether our thoughts are pleasant or disturbing has an effect on what type of hormone, and how much of it, is produced by the body. Separating our thoughts from the chemical reactions they cause within our bodies would be as impossible as separating a mother bear from her cub.

In some species of apes, the mother does not allow any other animal to care for her offspring. However, in other species, such as the Bonnet macaque, care of the young is shared by a number of community members, both related and non-related to the mother. The capacity for accepting help from others in caring for our young is one of the things that separates humans from our evolutionary cousins, the primates.

What a mother thinks about the meaning of having a child has the power to determine how she will behave towards the child. Unlike precocial animals that mature quickly and can follow their mothers within hours after birth, humans are altricial, and raising a child to maturity can take twenty years. That’s why her thoughts about having children are so important.

The results of studies can support many different hypotheses about the bond between mother and child. Perhaps the fact that our thoughts can affect our chemistry and our behavior, and socialization can affect our thoughts is one of the reasons it is so difficult for mothers to trust their own instincts. Many continue to rely on social customs that have not always proven to be in the best interests of supporting the natural bond between mother and child.
In the final analysis, most mothers are as dependent upon society for survival as their children are dependent upon them. However, between six and ten months, human infants begin to show signs of attachment to siblings and other important people in their lives. This all means that mothers have many years, as well as help from others, to continue to develop and strengthen the bond with their babies.

Our body chemistry and our thought processes are always in the midst of a dance so complex that it is often difficult to tell which partner is leading. The bond between mother and child is one of the most beautiful results of this dance of life.

bond between mother and child
Kiss (mother version) by Leonid Mamchenkov, Flickr CC2.0

January 19,2016  |

cells of mother and child

How New Life and Old Life Combine in the Cells of Mother and Child

“Nature is only another chimera.”

Julien Torma

Chimerism and the Cells of Mother and Child

Genetic chimerism is a phenomenon that illustrates the extent to which we are all interconnected, and even, biologically, a part of one another. In the past, it was common for societies to mythologize natural phenomenon of which they had little scientific understanding. The Greek myth surrounding chimerism depicted Echinda, half snake and half nymph, who was mother to the Gorgon, the Hydra, and the Chimera. The chimera has been described differently by different cultures. In the “Illiad”, Homer describes it as a combination of a goat, a lion and a snake.

The myth illustrated the terror associated with the prospect of mothers not having control over which parts of themselves their children will inherit. Today, there is a scientific explanation for chimerism, or one individual organism carrying the cells of another separate organism within it. The cells of mother and child may be shared to a greater extent than previously realized. According to one article, one example of this is the placenta, which is an organ built from the cells of mother and child, through which the child receives nourishment throughout the process of gestation. Cells from the placenta can migrate to almost any other organ in the body, including the heart, kidneys, and even the skin. These cells can serve positive purposes, like tissue repair or preventing cancer.

Some evidence suggests that cells can also be transferred from mother to child through nursing. These cells, like stem cells, can become many types of tissue and serve to assist in tissue repair of damaged organs. An experiment with a mother rat with an injured heart showed that the fetal cells migrated to the heart, where they became heart cells that helped repair the damage. In other animal studies, microchimeric cells were found to have become nerve cells in maternal brains, leading researchers to believe that they may serve a similar purpose in humans.

The Cells of Mother and Child in the Brain

The modern concept of individuality is somewhat challenged by the fact that most people carry remnants of other individuals within their bodies. A new study shows that these remnants, or cells, are also found in the brain. In the study, living male cells, some of which had survived for several decades, were found in the brains of women. It was also found that these cells were less common in women suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Further research may one day reveal exactly what impact the cells of mother and child have on brain health.

Another study examined the brains of deceased women. They found the presence of cells containing the male chromosome in more than 60 percent of the brains. Further, they were found in multiple regions of the brain. This study disproved the theory that Alzheimers may be caused by the presence of these cells. Rather than being more common in women who’d had multiple pregnancies, it was more common in women with fewer shared cells.

The Role of Cells of Mother and Child in Continuity

In the first reported case of chimerism, that of Mrs. McK, it was found that a twin had been absorbed in utero, which resulted in her having two distinctly different blood types. The majority of chimeras are, or were at one time, twins who exchanged blood in utero. In rare cases, the DNA of a child lost in utero has been absorbed by the mother’s body, transforming her into a chimera born of grief and the desire for her child to experience life.

In the case of Lydia Fairchild, DNA tests ordered by the state to prove the paternity of her two children confirmed that she was not their genetic mother, despite having given birth to them. Accused of welfare fraud and threatened with the removal of her children by the state, her lawyer demanded further testing and it was revealed that she carried two distinct strands of DNA. This results when two sperm implant two eggs and is called tetragametic chimerism. Her case illustrated that DNA may not offer the 100% positive proof of individual identity that we believe it does. It also suggested that we may not always pass as much of ourselves to our children through our own DNA as we believe we do.

Scientific Experimentation with Chimerism

A “geep” was created in 1984 by British geneticists who combined the embryos of a sheep and a goat. The resulting chimera was sterile, but lived to adulthood. Other scientists have experimented with rabbits with blood containing human cells. These experiments are distinctly different from the naturally occurring phenomenon of the combining of the cells of mother and child and some ethical considerations have been raised surrounding them. While such experimentation may one day increase our understanding of our own humanity, there is no substitute for the genius of mother nature.


January 18,2016  |

parental expert

Parental Expert Jo Frost And The True Meaning Of Values And Time In Parenting.

“Your role is not to make your child happy every moment of the day regardless of the personal cost, but to raise her to be a thoughtful, kind, productive citizen of the world. Some people would beg to differ, but it’s not a choice to discipline or not. Your child needs discipline, just like she needs food and water.”

An Unconventional Parental Expert

Recognized parental expert Jo Frost was skyrocketed to fame by the popular television show “Supernanny”. Supernanny, debuted on the UK’s channel 4 in July of 2004 and ran for a full seven seasons until it’s final episode in March of 2011. The show was viewed in 48 countries, including the U.S., with an estimated viewership of over 5 million. Her books have also sold in the millions.

One of the things that differentiates her from any other parental expert is the life experience she gained during her years as a professional nanny. While another “parental expert” may offer the results of research studies based on theoretical analysis, she offers solutions to many of the difficult real-life situations that modern parents actually face. Further, viewers can literally see the implementation, as well as the results, of these solutions for themselves.

Top Three Parenting Tips from a Parental Expert

In one interview, when asked what her top three parenting advice tips were, she offered the following advice.

  1. First, she recommended that parents ask themselves what their values are and what kind of parents they want to be. Considerations such as religious beliefs are a component of family value systems, as well as other values such as cooperation and responsibility. Results are easier to achieve when the goals are clear.
  2. Secondly, the importance of leading by example cannot be overestimated. A policy of “Do as I say and not as I do” results in hypocrisy which children are quick to identify and often rebel against. Even as a parental expert, Ms. Frost believes that no amount of expert advice can take the place of role modeling the behaviors that parents want to encourage and develop in their children. Further, rather than just being blank slates to be taught, children, by mirroring their parent’s behavior often teach their parents as well. One of the most important emotional characteristics that parents model for their children is that of respect.
  3. Her third top parenting tip is for parents to make time for their children. Learning requires both time and patience, both of which are important elements of the ability to demonstrate love. In an increasingly materialistic world in which many adults driven by economic concerns have forgotten its true value, children still recognize that time is much more than just money.

Parental Expert Advice on Parenting Effectiveness versus Parental Ego

In an interview with the Telegraph, she even offered parenting tips to the interviewer, including the opinion that use of a “dummy” or pacifier can delay speech. Known for her straightforward style and willingness to sacrifice parental ego in pursuit of positive results, she stressed the importance of discipline in parenting. However, she insists that parents must discipline themselves as well as their children. Using a sports analogy, she made the point that

“We do not question an athlete who is disciplined in order to achieve their goals, and yet as parents the same premise is not applied.”

In addition to her other work in television and the publishing industry, Jo Frost works with the United Nations Foundation‘s Shot@Life movement as an advocate. The program’s goal is to decrease preventable childhood diseases through vaccination. She was also recently named the newest celebrity patron by the anaphylaxis campaign in her continued quest to raise consciousness of children’s health concerns.

While her work has kept her too busy to start a family of her own so far, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, she revealed that she and her fiancé, Darrin Jackson, with whom she lives in California, are considering doing just that. One of the most valuable legacies of her work is demonstrating that with consistent practice, anybody can become a parental expert.

parental expert


January 13,2016  |