You know, one of the more upsetting things about trying to get people to accept the idea that how parents treat their children has a huge impact on whether that child will grow up happy, well-adjusted and even sane and physically healthy, is that the information and the science is out there in droves - but it's being ignored.
Recently, I came across this presentation by Dr Martin Teicher, who's a leading researcher into the links between parental abuse and the effects it has on the development of the brain.
He's summed up a lot of his findings in this very informative (and relatively easy to read) PDF presentation, which you can see for yourself HERE.
Here's an excerpt on one of his recent studies on the effects of parental verbal abuse (that so many of us like to pretend is 'ok', and not doing the kid any harm) from his website:
This study provides the first evidence that high levels of parental verbal aggression may be a form of abuse or adversity that alters trajectories of brain development. It supports our previous hypothesis that different forms of childhood maltreatment will exert some comparable an array of consistent neurobiological effects (particularly on limbic regions or connection) as they are all stressors. However, different forms of abuse will also have some unique effects based on sensory systems activated that convey the aversive stimulus to specific parts of the brain that process and interpret the information.
And here are Dr Teicher's 11 'take home' messages, about the links between adversity in childhood and mental illnesses:
1. Childhood maltreatment is associated with marked effects on brain morphology, function and circuitry.
2. The nature or magnitude of the effect depends to a substantial degree on type and timing of maltreatment during developmental sensitive periods.
3. Sensitive periods detected to date were often surprisingly brief and associated with vulnerability to one or two specific types of maltreatment.
4. While type and timing is often the most important predictive factor, there are some consequences of maltreatment that depend more on severity and multiplicity of exposure.
5. Childhood maltreatment is associated with structural alterations in key components of threat detection and response circuit.
6. These different components have their own unique sensitive periods so that maltreatment at different ages will target this circuit - but in different ways.
7. Maltreatment-related alterations in threat detection and response are likely adaptive alterations designed to reduce distress and to help individuals reproduce and survive in what appears to be a malevolent world.
8. The impact of maltreatment on trajectories of brain development provides a strong signal that appears in many instances to be much larger than signals associated with psychopathology per se.
9. Childhood maltreatment / early life stress is a huge confound in studies on biology or treatment of psychiatric disorders when not taken into account.
10. Maltreated and non-maltreated individuals with the same primary DSM-5, ICD-10 disorder appear to differ clinically, neurobiologically and genetically.
11. It is crucial to recognize that early traumatic stress is not just as a risk factor for psychopathology. Rather, it is a critical element that subdivides psychiatric disorders in a way that has far reaching implications for research, treatment and prevention. Developmental
Stop the abuse, you stop the 'mental illness'.
And once that message starts to get out, then we'll really start to see things move and improve.