At LifeVantage, we believe knowledge is power. The ability to take control of your own health requires access to real, quantifiable information. We also believe in bringing people together, so we do not endorse specific political affiliations or candidates. Biohackers come from every walk of life, and we love that aspect of the movement.
This is the beginning of a new series of blog posts, where we will seek to provide information that is relevant to issues trending today. Providing valuable health information that will help people from any side as they seek to find solutions.
This week we are looking at something that has dominated the headlines. The removal of children from their parents. As humans we know pain can be a valuable deterrent. But we also believe we should know exactly what is happening so we can determine if it is what we want to do, or something we do not. So let’s take a look at what separation does at a molecular level inside the body:
With decades of research, we can definitively say that the attachment mothers have with their children is so much more than a feeling. It’s a bond that’s formed well before birth. In fact, research has shown that fetuses have learned to recognize their mother’s smell and sounds while in the womb and that knowledge continues after birth. We also know that one of the very first things a newborn learns after birth is their mother’s face and voice. They can recognize those things and distinguish them from any other human they meet. There is an instant chemical bond that is formed. One as unique as a fingerprint.
But what happens when that bond is broken or interrupted?
According to psychologists, parental separation often results in traumatic emotional reactions. The term is neurobiological vulnerability, and it can take on several different forms. And none of them are pleasant.
When a child is first separated from her parents, the first thing that occurs is an anxious period of calling and active search behavior. That period is followed by a series of declining behavioral responsiveness triggered by a lack of warmth or other physiological interactions that children desperately need from their mothers.
Specifically, scientists have found that separation leads to abnormal cardiac and REM sleep cycles among infants. In a recent study, researchers were able to stabilize those cycles among separated infant rats by providing them with artificial warmth, abundant milk, and simulating a mother’s touch with a paintbrush. It was not able to stabilize higher-level behaviors such as reciprocity, imitation, connection, empathy, or play.
But the negative effects of child separation aren’t simply short term. There are long term effects that have been proven as well. The connection (or lack of) between a parent and a child, and any amount of separation have a lasting effect on the health of both the child and parent.
Study after study has shown that when separation occurs, both parent and child develop health concerns later in life. At a rate much greater than the normal population. For example, one study showed that depression and anxiety (and their associated diseases) occurred in adults who had experienced separation as a child at a rate nearly 3 times the national average. Other researchers discovered that 80% of rats who were removed from their mothers before weaning developed stomach ulcers as adults in response to the stress they went through, whereas only 50% of properly-reared rats experience ulceration. This suggests that separation may reduce the bodies ability to deal with stress, leading to disease.
Human relationships are different than rats, obviously. But that just goes to underscore the importance that physical touch, warmth, and communication must have on newborn human babies — we are, after all, an incredibly social species.
Additionally, researchers agree that in addition to physical touch, the role that play takes in a child’s life is critically important. The time that parents spend playing with their children ultimately leads to greater physical, cognitive, and emotional development in children. It also delivers immense benefits to parents as well. In parents, that healthy, constant relationship with their children has been shown to reduce stress, propensity towards addiction, reduction in depression and anxiety, and a substantial improvement in overall health and their immune system.
In a world where tough decisions are being made, and information is essential, we hope that solutions will take into consideration the parent-child relationship, it’s short and long-term effects, and the scientific knowledge that strong parent-child connections come with a lifetime of health benefits.