parental genetics

The DIY Genetic Testing and The Brave New World that Comes With It

With every new form of genetic testing comes a new controversy. One of the most recent controversies concerned the 23andMe saliva DNA test. The test was designed to give individual consumers information about their ancestry and any potential genetic health risks. Potentially, prospective parents could use the test to determine their parental genetics and identify health risks to a child they may have together. The U.K.’s the health regulatory agency recently approved its use despite the fact that the FDA had banned the company from marketing the test in the U.S.

The CEO of the company is Anne Wojcicki, former wife of Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google and reportedly one of the 18th richest people in the world. In the U.S., which does not have universal health care, one of the concerns was that the data from the test could be obtained by insurance companies, who would then raise their premiums or deny health care coverage based on the information. Another concern was whether customer data obtained by the company would be sold to other companies. Finally, most diseases are the result of a complex combination of genes and social and environmental interactions, which limits the potential of the test to accurately determine risk factors.

Another article discusses the controversy surrounding PDG, or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. This is a form of parental genetics testing available to women during the process of in vitro fertilization. Supporters of the test argue that detecting genetic abnormalities in the embryo before implantation reduces the risk of a child being born with a potentially deadly or crippling disease. The moral argument is that reducing human suffering is the right thing to do.

Opponents of parental genetics testing of embryos argue that physical limitations often contribute to making a person stronger in other ways, and that the world might be losing a valuable contribution. Another argument surrounding the use of the test concerns the concept of eugenics which refers to the improvement of the human race through parental genetics or “good breeding”. The word itself was coined by an ancient Greek slave society, a fact which illustrates the concerns of many people about the high potential for misuse of parental genetics testing technology for political purposes.

Another controversy surrounding parental genetics testing is the moral objection by many to the destruction of less than perfect embryos, as well as their use in conducting medical research. Many within the medical community argue that with the consent of the parents, it is not only moral to conduct research on unwanted embryos, but that such research provides potentially life-saving information which benefits all of humanity. For example, it may one day be possible to induce stem cells to form tissues and organs for those currently suffering and in need of a transplant.

Some have suggested in vitro fertilization using only one embryo rather than cultivating several, then implanting only the healthiest one based on parental genetics test results and freezing and storing the rest. There are several reasons for cultivating multiple embryos for the IVF process. Up to 80 percent of embryos transferred into the uterus fail to implant, often due to chromosomal abnormalities. Further, only about one third of IVF procedures result in a successful live birth. In countries with universal health care, the single embryo method could be used for several attempts. However, in the U.S. most insurance companies do not cover the process, which has an average cost of about $10,000 dollars.

One of the moral questions that form the basis of many arguments against the practice of medical research on human embryos is the question of when life begins. Medical research has determined that embryos don’t begin to form nervous systems until two weeks after conception. They are unable to experience pleasure or pain before sixteen weeks of gestation and don’t develop consciousness until twenty-four weeks. More than 50 percent of embryos die within eight weeks of conception through the natural occurrence of spontaneous abortion.

If embryos are persons, then 220 million people die each year as a result of spontaneous abortion, making it the leading cause of death in the world. Researchers argue that if this is the case, it would be their moral duty to conduct research that would reduce the number of such deaths. While the controversy is similar to that surrounding abortion, one article describes a very personal account of the differences between how society and the law view the two.

In some countries, including the U.K., the law requires that surplus embryos produced through the IVF process be destroyed d after a period of time. These laws indicate that embryos are not regarded as living persons by society, and there have been few protests against this issue compared to the issue of abortion. Ironically, frozen embryos are considered potential persons by their donors, some of whom oppose these laws because they want to ensure their ability to have the biological child of a beloved partner even in the event of their death. That ability is one of the miracles that parental genetic testing has made possible.

parental genetics
Unreachable Futures by David Goehring. Flickr CC2.0
On Gender Equality in Parenting, Fatherhood and Human Paternal Behavior

Scientific Truths and Questions of Morality on Genetic Testing

Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors – ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics. But, clearly, there are scientific truths to be known about how we can flourish in this world. Wherever we can have an impact on the well-being of others, questions of morality apply.”

–Sam Harris

Modern Mother and Child Genetics Testing Methods

Mother and child genetics has become increasingly relevant in today’s society for many reasons. Genetic testing is becoming widely available for a variety of purposes. For a variety of reasons, many prospective parents are availing themselves of modern technology to give their children a head start in life. For example, prospective parents with a history of certain types of hereditary diseases and conditions are beginning to seek genetic testing and counseling before having children.

There is now a wide range of diseases that can be detected with modern genetic testing, including some forms of cancer, cystic fibrosis, Down’s syndrome, fragile-x syndrome, hemophilia, Huntington’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, neurofribromatosis, muscular dystrophy, phenylketonuria, sickle cell anemia, and Tay-Sachs disease.

Counselors are able to evaluate genetic tests and advise people of the risk of conceiving a child with recessive genes that may manifest in these diseases. Genetic tests can now be performed on fetuses by taking cell samples from the womb. The two techniques now widely available are called amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling. Most newborns are given a blood test for phenylketonuria, which is a a genetic disease that can cause mental retardation if it goes undiagnosed, after birth.

Amazingly enough, there are now biochips, also called DNA arrays or microarrays, that promise to make a variety of genetic tests faster and easier than ever before. With the use of biochips, each glass slide or “chip” contains multiple rows of DNA probes, which test for the presence of a specific DNA sequence. If a specific sequence that signifies a mutation is present, a specific spot on the biochip will glow under a special light. This method allows for testing for thousands of mutations at once.

The use of biochips could very well result in the use of genetic ID cards that carry all of an individual’s genetic information. While such a card may be helpful for doctors, who could use it to determine the right dosage of the right drugs, many are apprehensive about potential abuses of this technology. For example, many potential mothers have expressed a desire to use it to determine the sex of the fetus, which depending upon the culture, may result in aborting a fetus.

Another new form of testing mother and child genetics is called tandem mass spectometry. The mass spectrometer is a device that separates and quantifies ions. For example, organic acid derivatives are subjected to gas chromatography before entering the mass spectrometer, where they are ionized and fragmented to determine their abundance. The tandem mass spectrometer is made up of two quadrupole mass spectrometers that are separated by a reaction chamber. The genetic testing process takes only a few seconds. The data can be analyzed either by using a parent ion to obtain an array of all parent ions capable of producing a daughter ion when fragmented, or in a neutral loss mode to obtain an array of all parent ions that lose a common neutral fragment.

Ethical Considerations of Mother and Child Genetics Testing

There are a number of ethical considerations surrounding the testing of mother and child genetics, some of which does not provide enough information for parents to make difficult decisions. Additionally, there are some tests that may provide false negatives or positives. Modern mother and child genetics testing is able to identify approximately 80% of neural tube defects in pregnancies and approximately 60% of pregnancies in which Down syndrome is present. False negative or positive tests often result in further testing and increased anxiety about having to decide whether it is in the best interests of the child to terminate the pregnancy.

It is also believed that some mother and child genetics testing for some conditions for which there are no treatments can cause potential psychological harm. Other ethical issues include stigmatization and potential discrimination. In countries in which health care insurance determines whether a person can receive treatment, such as the U.S., there is a concern that test information might be used to limit people’s access to employment or health insurance.

Maintaining confidentiality of medical information is essential, but there is still a risk of discrimination against people who have a positive result on a genetic test. Patenting of genes is another ethical consideration. The ability to isolate genes has raised the issue of the right to patent them. In Australia there have been three preliminary cases of gene patenting. In the U.S, the Federal Government issued a response in 2011 confirming that the government does not prohibit gene patenting, but will attempt to ensure that gene patents do not lead to people being denied “reasonable access to healthcare”.

Guidelines for genetic testing must reflect the value of each and every potential child, capable of being valued and loved beyond measure.

mother and child genetics
Genetic Testing. Pic by Neil Palmer (CIAT). Plant samples in the gene bank at CIAT’s Genetic Resources Unit, at the institution’s headquarters in Colombia
loving female hormones

Sacred Insanity: The Love Drugs

“That’s what falling in love really amounted to, your brain on drugs. Adrenaline and dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. Chemical insanity, celebrated by poets.”

Tess Gerritsen

The Role of Loving Female Hormones in Sexuality

There are a number of substances produced by women’s bodies that might be called loving female hormones. Two of the most important are oxytocin and dopamine. Oxytocin was “discovered” in 1952, and dopamine in 1957. Both play a complex and important role in human relationships between men and women as well as between parents and children.

Oxytocin is both a medicine and a hormone which has been nicknamed “the love hormone”. Secreted from the pituitary gland to the many parts of the brain that contain receptors, one of the primary ways oxytocin acts as a loving female hormone is by reducing social anxiety and evoking feelings of calmness in the presence of a romantic partner. However, it is not only a loving female hormone, but a male one as well.

Another important aspect of human relationships is trust. In experiments designed to measure trust levels, researchers found that subject who were administered doses of oxytocin experienced higher levels of trust than those who were not. Even friendships require a degree of trust, but romantic relationships that may one day result in someone you find attractive seeing you in your underwear one day requires an even higher level.

One study that measured oxytocin serum levels of women before and after sexual stimulation found increased levels present immediately after orgasm. A similar study conducted with men found increased levels of oxytocin throughout the entire process of sexual arousal, rather than just after orgasm. This means that the presence of increased levels of oxytocin is an important component of human sexual arousal, both male and female.

During childbirth, oxytocin causes contractions, while dopamine reduces the pain that accompanies them. Dopamine also plays an important role in preventing or alleviating post-partum depression.

The Role of Loving Female Hormones in Parenting

One article shares the results of an experiment in which the natural production of oxytocin, one of the loving female hormones, was blocked in mother rats, which caused them to ignore their young. Additionally, young female mice who were not mothers themselves were indifferent to the cries of infant pups. However, when they were injected with oxytocin, they began to retrieve the crying infants. These studies revealed the presence of oxytocin receptors in the auditory cortex of the brain. The left side of the auditory cortex contains more receptors, which suggests that this is the part of the brain that specializes in recognizing social signals.

The largest and most important source of dopamine in the brain is the basal ganglia located at the base of the forebrain. This is the part of the brain responsible for controlling impulses and making decisions. One of the reasons that dopamine can be considered a loving female hormone is that high levels of dopamine has the effect of reducing inhibitions. While some impulse control is necessary, as any parent can testify, if the decision to have a child was based entirely on logic and preparedness, the world would contain very few people. During childbirth, oxytocin causes contractions, while dopamine reduces the pain of contractions. Dopamine also plays an important role in preventing or alleviating post-partum depression.

Production of Loving Female Hormones

New studies have shown that the body’s natural production of dopamine can be adversely affected by high levels of copper in the brain. Low levels of dopamine is believed to be one of the causes of post-partum depression. Luckily, there are things women can do to stimulate production of the loving female hormones that enable them to care for themselves as well as others. One article lists a number of natural ways to do just that.

The loving female hormones oxytocin and dopamine play a huge part in attraction, romance, and sexual arousal as well as reducing the pain of childbirth and helping new mothers successfully adapt to their roles as infant caretakers. Mothers would do well to remember that males produce these hormones as well, and with the exception of childbirth, for similar reasons. Perhaps one day, researchers will conduct a research experiment that reveals that men who are administered a dose of oxytocin respond to crying infants, too.

loving female hormones
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Stolen Kiss, cc2.0
sexuality and family lfe

About the Mothering Heart and Sexual Invisibility

“You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist — whatever you want to be — and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.”

An article about motherhood and sexuality in literature and film questions whether sexuality and family life are compatible in Western societies. The author’s analyzation of literature and films would suggest that they aren’t. She asks, and attempts to answer the question: “How far can we go, as a filmmaker and a novelist, in representing the mother as a sexual being?”. The answer seems to be changing, albeit very slowly.

Sexuality and Family Life in Film

Mothers in literature and film are often portrayed as either “good” or “bad”, and it is frequently something connected to their sexuality that makes them “bad”. From the first days of film, women in the role of ideal mothers have been portrayed as sexually pure, forgiving and self-sacrificing. In the 1913 film The Mothering Heart, the heroine deviated from that ideal by leaving her cheating husband. Her baby dies shortly thereafter, and believing it to be a divine punishment for her non-forgiveness of her husband’s sexual transgressions, she returns to him
In the 1930’s films portrayed mothers who had no desires of their own, but were often weak enough to be seduced by men with desires. In the 1950’s, the film Mildred Pierce contained a message about the consequences of women who prioritized their children’s happiness over that of their husbands. Her husband divorces her, leaving her to support herself and her demanding children, although she is ill-equipped to do so. Her daughter resents their new poverty and decline in social status. This left the mother vulnerable to being seduced by a scoundrel who promised economic assistance, but then seduced her daughter. Overall, films have presented very few positive portrayals of sexuality and motherhood.

Sexuality and Family Life in Popular Magazines

The societal view that good mothers repress their sexuality is also reflected in magazines geared towards mothers. One study examined articles in eight of those magazines from 1991 through 2010 for content related to sexuality. The study found that out of 14,746 articles in eight popular magazines over 20 years, only 2.3%. contained any content regarding sexuality and family life. Despite the popularity of the controversial 1991 cover of Vanity Fair, the content of magazines geared towards mothers would indicate that mothers simply cease to be sexual beings after the birth of their first child.

Only one parenting guide in the 1990s, Vicki Iovine’s The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood contained a chapter on sexuality and family life. Psychologist, couples counselor and author Ester Perel’s book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence addresses some of the issues surrounding sexuality and motherhood that popular magazines geared towards mothers don’t. Ms. Perel points out in her book that sexual invisibility is deeply ingrained in Western culture. There are also at least a few online articles on the subject of sexuality and family life.

Sexuality and Family Life in Education

This example of a current U.S. public school course in human sexuality and family life demonstrates that the educational objective is to teach abstinence from sexuality by emphasizing the consequences of unplanned pregnancy. A report on public school sex education in Australia states that “The pleasure of sexual behaviour/activity was taught by less than 50% of respondents.” According to an article in the Guardian, the unwillingness of adults to speak openly and honestly about sexuality has resulted in leaving children more vulnerable to the influence of sexualized advertising and pornography on the internet.

The Role of Religion in Sexuality and Family Life

Many of the negative attitudes towards sexuality have their origins in religion. Most religions teach that sex outside marriage is wrong. Even people who are not religious believe that sex within the context of a caring relationship is both healthier and more enjoyable than casual sex. An interesting experiment revealed that the brain performs differently when thinking about sex than when thinking about love. Subjects were divided into three groups. One group was “primed” with the mention of sex, while another was primed with the mention of love. The third acted as the control group.

The results of the experiment were that those who had been primed with mentions of sex performed better on analytical tasks, and those primed with mentions of love performed better on creativity tasks. Conversely, thoughts about sex may be detrimental to creativity, while thoughts about love may be detrimental to analytic reasoning. Religious beliefs rely on long-term love, utilizing words like “eternal”. One reason that religion may discourage sex, and even masturbation, is because it increases analytic ability, which may undermine religious belief.
The role of sexuality in family life cannot be ignored. Reducing discussions about sexuality to clinical explanations of the biological purpose of body parts or lists of negative social consequences may be doing children a disservice. The pleasure of sexuality, which include both the physical sensations and the emotional closeness it engenders, is one of the reasons family life exists at all.

sexuality and family lfe
Pregnant Woman was created by Ron Mueck who is an Australian hyperrealist sculptor, and was purchased by Queensland Art G
parental surrogate

Surrogacy: Humanity’s Capacity for the Ultimate Gift

“The Vatican is against surrogate mothers. Good thing they didn’t have that rule when Jesus was born.”

–Elayne Boosler

Forms of Surrogacy

Couples who are unable to have a child due to any number of medical conditions are increasingly utilizing the services of surrogates. Surrogacy involves one woman carrying the biological child of a couple to term. The two common processes of surrogacy are the traditional and the gestational.

In the traditional process, the surrogate is inseminated with donated sperm, and the surrogate mother is also the biological mother. In the gestational process, the biological parents donate the egg and the sperm. The egg is fertilized in the laboratory and then, implanted into the uterus of the surrogate in a process called a blastocyst transfer. The success rate of this method has increased by 10% in recent years.

To become a surrogate usually requires that a number of health tests be administered to determine eligibility, including a hysteroscopy to determine the size, shape and health of the uterus. Other tests include an infectious disease test, a pap smear. Another important test is a psychological one, which determines belief and the level of commitment to the process, as well as addressing the likelihood of some level of emotional bonding with the child during pregnancy and potential sense of loss upon completion of the process. Sometimes, mock trial pregnancies are conducted with the use of estrogen.

Legal Issues About Parental Surrogate

Experts estimate that approximately a thousand children each year are born in the U.S. as a result of the use of a parental surrogate. Other countries in which the use of a parental surrogate is legal include Russia and the Ukraine. In many European countries, including France, Italy, Germany and Spain, the use of a parental surrogate to conceive a child is still illegal.

Although soliciting a parental surrogate is illegal in the U.K., a non-profit organization called Surrogacy UK supports couples seeking surrogates through process of introduction of people interested in participating in the process. The number of people who, after being introduced, are able to forge a personal relationship between themselves with the level of trust required for the lengthy process of surrogacy is not a matter of public record. However, the laws may soon be changing. Despite surrogacy being illegal, as of 2014, the number of babies registered in Britain showed a 255% increase over the previous six years.

In India, where the use of a parental surrogate is legal, it is estimated that up to 40,000 children are born to surrogates each year. One of the reasons for that high figure is that in India, the cost is approximately $60,000, less than half of the average cost of $150,000 in the U.S. Thailand is also a favored destination for couples seeking a parental surrogate. A surrogate mother there receives the modest sum of only $13,000 dollars for her services, the majority of the fee going to brokers and doctors.

Ethical Concerns Surrounding Surrogacy

Despite the increase in the number of couples utilizing a parental surrogate, the industry remains largely unregulated. The lack of regulation leaves a number of ethical questions without legal answer and can also result in unforeseen events having life-long consequences.

One ethical issue is the potential exploitation of women living in poverty, but there are others, both from religious and ethical perspectives. One example of is that of an Australian couple who hired a surrogate in Thailand. She became pregnant with twins, one of whom was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in utero. The couple advised the surrogate to abort the child, but the surrogate refused. The couple accepted the other twin, but left the infant with Down’s syndrome to be raised by the surrogate.

Another ethical considerations is whether or not the surrogate mother has a right to remain informed regarding the health and welfare of the child. Many parents who utilize the services of a surrogate do maintain a life-long relationship with the surrogate. However, unlike legal open adoptions, which are more regulated, they are not legally required to do so. Just as with adopted children, parents of children born to a surrogate using the traditional method must also consider the ethical question of whether their child has a right to know about their biological origins. Many believe that knowledge of one’s true origins is vital not only for health reasons, but for developing a healthy personal identity.

Despite the potential for ethics violations, the use of surrogacy has brought untold joy to live lives of thousands of hopeful would-be parents. Many surrogate mothers have reported that participating in bringing joy into the lives of others in this has increased the joy in their own lives as well.

parental surrogate
Pregnancy by Tatiana VDB, CC2.0
parental choices

The Unforseen Value of Reproductive Rights

People have attempted to control their parental choices throughout history. Information about birth control was once considered “obscene” material that would erode public morals, in much the same way as pornography. Reproductive rights are now considered an important aspect of basic human rights in many countries, yet there are still many in which women are still struggling to achieve those rights.

Despite the continuing efforts of religious and political groups to control women’s access to contraception, in countries where it is available, the quality of life has improved considerably. Improved mental health, financial security, and increased political participation are just a few of the benefits of the ability to choose when to have children that contraception has provided women. Safe and effective contraception increases parental choices and has changed both women’s lives and society as a whole.

One of those positive changes include lower incidences of child abuse. The consequences of unintended pregnancies are both far-reaching and long-lasting. Countries with the lowest accessibility to birth control have the highest rates of forced child marriages, domestic abuse, abortion, poverty, and deaths resulting from childbirth. They also have the lowest literacy rates for women.

Most Popular Forms of Contraception

According to a 2009 United Nations report, the two most commonly used methods of contraception in developed countries are the pill and the male condom. However, in developing countries the two most commonly used methods are female sterilization and the IUD. Increasingly, female sterilization is becoming the preferred method for couples exercising their parental choices and is currently the most utilized form of contraception in the world as a whole. In developed countries, the most common method is still the birth control pill at 28% or approximately 10.6 million women, closely followed by female sterilization at 27%, or approximately 10.2 million women.

Female sterilization levels are highest in Latin America, China, India and the Caribbean. The IUD is used by 14% of women worldwide, making it the second most widely used form of contraception. Male condoms ranked at number four worldwide. Other modern contraceptive methods such as implants are gaining popularity, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa. Depo-provera is also becoming increasingly popular because a single dose can provide contraceptive effects for 12 weeks.
Sterilization has sometimes been used by governments in eugenics programs, and one article points out the disturbing fact that very few men utilize this option as compared to women. Despite the fact that the procedure is simpler and safer for men than for women, according to one article, as of 2009, the ratio of female sterilization to male vasectomies was 5 to 1. This reflects a widespread societal belief that birth control is largely a female responsibility. However, more men are now recognizing the benefits of increasing the number of parental choices for themselves as well as their families.

The Continuing Controversy Surrounding Parental Choices

Many people believe that even potential life is sacred and that preventing conception is wrong. In the continuing controversy over parental choices, members of religious groups who work in the health care field claim that government mandates to provide contraception is a violation of their religious freedom. Many pharmacists in the U site web.S. have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control as well as morning-after pills in cases of rape. This resulted in a recent Supreme Court case in which new rules were introduced for religious institutions and businesses with a moral objection to the birth control aspect of the Affordable Care Act.

Carl Djerassi, the father of modern birth control and inventor of “the pill” has been quoted as saying that with the advent of birth control, “sex became separated from its reproductive consequences”. However, birth control has done very little to protect women from the social consequences of freely expressing their sexuality. There are many opinions about why there continues to be a sexual double standard. One article maintains that women themselves perpetuate it through excessive competition. Feminists tend to point towards economic factors such as wage inequality and the capitalistic commodification of sex as reasons for the continued double standard.

Of the many benefits to mankind that the ability for people to choose when, and whether, to become parents, perhaps the greatest is that of increasing the number of children who are wanted. While people may disagree about how best to achieve the goal of a world in which every child is wanted and every parent able to care for them, everyone agrees that children deserve nothing less than to be welcomed and loved. Parental choices are helping to make that ideal world a reality.

parental choices
(Pregnant) Josefa de Castilla Portugal y van Asbrock de Garcini, Goya, 1804, Credit line; Bequeet of Harry Payne Bingham,

How Generosity Creates Life and Makes Life Worth Living

“If we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we fear guilt or retribution.”

J.M. Coetzee

A History of Generosity

Generosity is so important that it’s now considered a science, and maternal generosity is one of its most studied subjects. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame are working on several projects to learn more about generosity, perhaps the human trait most responsible for the continuation of our species.

In one article written for Mother’s Day, the author points out just how indebted we all are to maternal generosity by describing in detail the physical sacrifices mothers make for their children even before they are born. Attempting to answer the question of what makes humans generous, one author offers a number of possibilities.

The primordial origin of maternal generosity lies partly in the experience of caring for offspring. Neuroscience research conducted by Stephanie Brown and James Swain at Stony Brook University suggests that becoming a parent changes the way human brains are wired. These chemical and biological changes encourage parents to respond more generously to others’ needs. In the human evolution from hunter-gatherer societies in which danger and scarcity demanded sharing among family and tribal members, natural selection favored the characteristic of maternal generosity.

In the past, natural selection worked against those who were incapable of the potential self-sacrifice that was often necessary to guarantee collective survival. As modern technology continues to make the world ever smaller, humanity’s continued survival depends upon its ability to expand that generosity beyond family and tribe to include the entire family of man.

Generosity: Nature and Nurture

Scientific research has shown that much behavior is the result of a complex interaction between biology, chemistry, and environmental triggers. One example of a chemical and biological response to an environmental trigger is that of a mother’s breasts producing milk in response to the sound of the cry of her infant. Maternal generosity is a matter of both nature and nurture.

Some research with primates suggests that instances of sharing behavior between mothers is more frequent when androgen levels are higher. The vulnerability of new mothers and their infants also results in begging behaviors, a form of maternal generosity in times of need which serves as a societal trigger for sharing behaviors of the larger group. Human mothers and infants share that vulnerability, and the generosity of a society is often measured by the extent to which it shares its resources with its most vulnerable members. Children’s survival is largely dependent upon the level of generosity of the culture into which it is born.

The Role of Maternal Generosity in Society

The level of generosity can often be determined by observing social programs in place for women and children. According to one article, in the U.S., seven out of ten children of single mothers live in poverty, as compared to one out of ten in Finland. However, child poverty rates in the U.S., even among two parent families are higher than those of Nordic countries. In the U.K, it is estimated that approximately 25% of children live in poverty compared to approximately 17% in Australia. According to the Hunger Project, an estimated 805 million people in the world today live with chronic hunger.

In humans, the biological production of chemicals which encourage generous behavior has been shown to exist in both new mothers and fathers. Researchers theorize that cultivating generous behavior that resembles maternal generosity may require creating and activating other social triggers that act in much the same way as the cry of an infant. Developing societal triggers that promote generosity is contingent upon routinizing factors that promote and encourage generous behavior. Perhaps the single most important of these routinizing factors is that of parents modeling such behavior.

In the world of research, individual families are viewed as macro cultures which have the power to produce young people who are more generous than other macro cultures. Research regarding the details of what parenting behaviors contribute most to encouraging generosity is difficult because many complex psychological and social mechanisms at work in the parent/child relationship are not empirically observable. In short, observing psychologists are not able to understand or interpret the full psychological effect and significance that something as seemingly trivial as a raised parental eyebrow may have upon a particular child.

Sharing behaviors, however, are entirely observable in individual people as well as governments. Children who observe their parents sharing their resources with the wider community are more likely to adopt that behavior themselves. Despite our continued evolution, our survival as a species is still dependent upon our ability to share resources. Generosity is a one of the traits that most defines us as human. It also serves to help make our lives worth living and affords us all the opportunity to flourish rather than merely survive.

maternal generosity

in vitro fertilization

Creating Life: How the True Genius of Technology Helps Conceive Life

In Vitro Fertilization—The Process

In vitro fertilization is a process by which a woman’s egg is fertilized in a laboratory rather than inside her body. The fertilized egg is cultured for 2 to 6 days and then implanted into a woman’s uterus to complete the process of conception that leads to a successful pregnancy.

The IVF process is used both as a treatment for infertility and in cases of gestational surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy can use the intended mother’s egg the intended father’s sperm, the surrogate’s egg, or both eggs and sperm from donors. Another method, called ovarian hyperstimulation, uses drugs called gonadotropins over a 10 day period to stimulate egg production.

The cost of in vitro fertilization can vary depending upon the number of procedures required to achieve a successful pregnancy from approximately $8000 to $17,000. The costs associated with gestational surrogacy can be over $150,000 because they include the costs associated with the pregnancy as well. Psychological screenings, counseling, legal fees, and medications are among the expenses covered by that fee.

The legal status of in vitro fertilization varies by country, with some countries placing more restrictions on the process than others. For example, some countries such as China and Turkey only allow the process for married couples, while others such as Spain permit it for single people and same-sex couples as well. Surrogacy is banned in many countries, but permitted in India and many others, with some restrictions.

The Rising Use of In Vitro Fertilization

The use of in vitro fertilization has increased in recent years for a number of reasons. According to a recent report, that trend is expected to continue, with an estimated increase of 7% from 2015 to 2021. According to one article, 61,740 babies, or 1.5% of all babies born in 2012 in the U.S. alone were the result of successful in vitro fertilization. In Australia in 2010, the 61,774 assisted reproductive treatments performed resulted in 12,056 live births.

Many people who are sure they want children in the future take the precautionary measure of having eggs and/or sperm frozen for future use. However, the success rate of the procedure is lower with the use of frozen eggs. The age of the woman is also a factor, with women over age 40 having lower success rates than those under the age of 35. However, until 2006, the record for the oldest woman to give birth using IVF and a donated egg was held by Adriana Iliescu, who gave birth at the age of 66.

Common Reasons for the Use of In Vitro Fertilization

Economic factors play a role in the decision of many women to postpone having children until their careers are firmly established and they are able to financially support a child. The average cost of raising a child in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years to $304,480 when adjusted for projected inflation. That figure is calculated on raising a child from birth to the age of 18 and does not include the cost of college or other forms of higher education that prepare young people to enter the workforce and become financially independent.

Fertility disorders are another common reason women choose to use in vitro fertilization. The most common cause of female infertility is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In this condition, changes in the the hypothalamus, pituitary glands and ovaries create a hormone imbalance that affects ovulation. Another common causes include hypothalamic dysfunction caused by physical or emotional stress or a substantial weight gain or loss and pelvic tuberculosis.

Premature ovarian insufficiency disorder is caused by an autoimmune response in which the body attacks ovarian tissues. It can occur as the result of genetic factors or environmental factors such as exposure to chemotherapy and causes a decrease in estrogen and a loss of ability for the ovaries to produce eggs.

Hyperprolactinemia is a condition in which the pituitary gland produces too much prolactin, which reduces estrogen production. It can either be genetic or caused by medications taken for other conditions. Polyps or tumors can block fallopian tubes, and endometriosis can cause scarring that prevents successful implantation of the embryo. Endometriosis, cervical stenosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and genetic uterine abnormalities are also common reasons for women to utilize IVF.

The Future of IVF

Since the successful birth of Loise Brown resulting from IVF in 1978, it is estimated that 5 million babies had been born by 2014 using IVF. In 2011, 588,629 treatments were reported from 33 European countries. 151,923 were reported from the U.S. and 66,347 from New Zealand and Australia. The approximately 1.5 million treatments performed each year result in the birth of an estimated 350,000 babies.

This remarkable process, which has continued to grow at a rate of 5 to 10% each year, has allowed many people who might otherwise have remained childless to experience the joys of parenthood. Techniques continue to be refined, which is predicted to increase the success rate even further.

in vitro fertilization

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
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