As we are getting increasingly concerned about our needs and deeds, we are all the more depriving our small kids of their needs in life. Kids were the number one priority of parents, especially the mother, during earlier decades. But with both parents going for a job and rise in personal demands it’s the children who exist as the most affected lot. We want to go out, we want to participate in marathons, watch movies peacefully, go on a lunch date or spend time with friends which puts the child at the mercy of the caretaker or the day-care centre. There are some parents who simply cuddle their child, kiss them good night and go off to their own busy schedule. Not everyone can afford a personal caretaker and when some kids are enrolled in day care centres the same attention as given to your child in a home setting cannot be expected. Kids are left to be on their own, engaged using television programs or made to sleep. This sounds sad and we pity the children but what is the state of those kids who are brought up in orphanages without the love, care and a sense of belonging? Pathetic.
More than the emotions surrounding the upbringing of children in orphanages a new study has come up with a shocking revelation that kids suffering from severe deprivation in early life have smaller brains in adulthood. This was the study done by a group of researchers at King’s college in London who simply revealed that neglecting children had everlasting effects on their brain. It is based on a study on small kids who grew up in Romania’s orphanages.
Romanian Orphanages that Shed Light on Children Neglect
It was in 1989 when the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, was revoked of his powers that the world realized the plight of more than 1,70,000 kids who were being raised in Romania’s impoverished institutions. A group of researchers took this opportunity to study a group of 136 kids (aged 6 months to 3 years) who had been living in one of the institutions from birth. They randomly moved half the kids into Romanian foster families (they were monitored and monetary aid was given) and the other half remained in the institution. On comparison they could see that institutionalized children suffered from delayed cognitive function, motor development and language besides showing deficits in socio-emotional behaviour and psychiatric disorders. Those who were shifted to foster care showed improvements in language, IQ and social-emotional functioning. The team also evaluated a control group of local kids and found that those sent to foster care still lagged behind the control group kids. But the researchers also observed that when kids were moved into foster care before the age of 2 their brain activities were no different from that of the control group.
A research in 2017 on 165 kids adopted from the same institutes into UK families observed that 4 of 5 kids continued to experience mental health problems that connected to childhood neglect. But the latest study, the first to scan brains of the kids, shows that childhood trauma physically changed them too. The researchers studied the brain scans of 67 Romanian adoptees who were there in orphanages for varying duration before they were adopted by UK families with brain scans from 21 other adults who were adopted into the UK. The results from the study nullify the concept that anything is possible to change or recover. Results showed that in comparison to other adoptees the adult brain of Romanian orphanage survivors were 8.6% smaller. For each extra month the kids spent in the orphanage their brain size decreased by 0.27%.
Its known that big brains don’t promise greater intelligence but the brain size of the study participants differed structurally in three main areas including control organization, memory integration and motivation. The early unpleasant development stages and environment shape brain development-the impaired brain doesn’t become 100% healthy even after the kids received loving care and affection for more than 10-15 years in their foster homes. All this might be due to lack of exposure to life experiences that could nurture normal brain development and chronic stress that could affect brain development. Its time to start showing your kids unbiased love and care. Devote focused attention on your little ones and shower them with loving words prioritizing their presence over anything else. Scientific research is now focusing on making new strides into erasing the impression what early neglect could leave on the child. Beyond nutrition and food, mental health plays an equally important role in designing a child’s brain development. Understand more about mental health and its effects on kids by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.