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This summarizes a report by UCLA
researchers Rena Repetti, Shelley Taylor, and Teresa Seeman in the Psychological Bulletin (2002, Vol. 128, No. 2, pp. 330–366). Their findings validate a core
premise in this Web site: that low
childhood nurturance provided by
passes on significant
wholistic-health risks to dependent kids.
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on what you're about to read. The
video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this Web site - I've simplified
that to seven.
researchers label "risky" are called "low-nurturance
(dysfunctional) families" in this
Web site. Hilights and links below are mine. See my comments following the
summary. - Peter Gerlach, MSW
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LOS ANGELES, March 21, 2002 (AScribe Newswire) -- In the
first study to analyze more than a decade of research showing how a family's
social environment influences physical and mental health,
a team of UCLA
scientists found strong evidence that children who grow up in "risky
families" often suffer lifelong health problems, including some of society's
most common serious ailments, such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension,
diabetes, obesity, depression and anxiety disorders, as well as
scientists found large numbers of studies that reveal a pattern of serious
long-term health consequences for children who grow up in homes marked by
conflict, anger and aggression; that are emotionally cold, unsupportive; and
where children's needs are neglected.
do not show up until decades later, while others are evident by adolescence.
"Poor health begins early in life, as
does good health," said Rena Repetti, associate professor of psychology at
UCLA and lead author of the article, in the current issue of the journal
Psychological Bulletin. "Growing up
in risky families creates a cascade of risk, beginning early in life, which
puts a child not only at immediate risk, but also at long-term and lifelong
risk for a wide variety of physical and mental health ailments."
her colleagues spent six years analyzing more than 500 psychological,
medical and biological research studies, and integrated the findings of
psychologists, pediatricians, biologists, neuroscientists, social workers
and other scientists. Her co-authors are Shelley Taylor, UCLA professor of
psychology, and Teresa Seeman, UCLA professor of medicine.
people separate physical and mental health,
research shows that physical and
mental health may not be as separate as is often assumed, and that our
brains and bodies may be more closely connected, Repetti said. The research
studies reveal that a child's genetic predispositions interact with the
environment, and in risky families, a child's genetic risk may be
exacerbated. This combination can lead to the faster development of health
problems, which may be more debilitating than they would be in a more
nurturing family Repetti said.
grow up in risky families are also more likely as teenagers and adults to
engage in drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, risky sexual behavior, and
aggressive, anti-social behavior,
the UCLA analysis showed. Many of the
studies analyzed provide evidence that teenagers who abuse drugs and engage
in risky sex are more likely to have hostile, unsatisfying and
non-supportive relationships with their parents, Repetti said.
abuse and risky sexual behavior may help these adolescents compensate for
their emotional, social and biological deficiencies," Repetti said. "Early
and promiscuous sexual behavior and substance use may help adolescents
manage negative emotions and feel
accepted in the absence of adequate
emotional coping strategies or social skills. Some of these risky health
behaviors, such as
substance abuse, self-medicate some of the deficits in
brain neurochemistry that may occur in risky families."
"It may be the kids who are most
lacking in social skills, problem-solving, and conflict-management
are most likely to turn to substance abuse or risky sexual behavior as a way
to gain acceptance," she said. "If the family environment was supportive and
nurturing all along, they would be more likely to have the social skills to
gain acceptance by their peers and the ability to regulate their emotions.
Healthy families enable children to grow up without the need for risky
behavior to address these deficits."
Children who observe family members
responding to conflict by yelling and hitting often grow up without learning
problem-solving skills that other
children learn, Repetti said. Children who grow up in high-conflict or
abusive homes are also much more vigilant to threats than other children and
may overreact to minor threats. That vigilance, which may protect them from
dangers at home, can cause them social problems later when they make hostile
attributions to what may be innocent actions by others.
"When they trip over another child's
foot on the schoolyard, they are ready for a fight because they believe the
other child did it on purpose," Repetti said. "They make the hostile
attribution, while a child who grew up in a less angry and aggressive family
is more likely to consider the possibility that it was just an accident.
That vigilance and those hostile attributions may get children in trouble in
school, but in high-conflict and aggressive homes, vigilance for threat and assuming hostile intent may actually protect
them from harm."
show that in addition to suffering from a wide variety of physical health
problems, children from families marked by conflict and aggression are at an
increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems, including
aggression, delinquency, depression, anxieties, and
suicide, Repetti said. She added that
the accumulation of evidence from many
different kinds of studies is "overwhelming."Poverty and the descent into poverty often "appear to
move parenting in more harsh, punitive, and coercive directions," Repetti
said, although risky families are also found in middle- and upper-income
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The gist of
this reputable summary of 500 research
that the nurturance level of typical families has major effects on the short
and welfare of dependent kids.
The way to
break this tragic
cycle is for adults (like
you) to proactively assess themselves for significant wounds, and take responsibility for (a) reducing
any they find, and (b) intentionally evolving a high-nurturance
family with their partners and supporters. For extra credit, you can
alert other people
in your community, region, or nation about the vital
need to break this cycle to protect the coming generations and our
My experience is that
significantly-wounded adults don't hit true bottom
until middle age - and many never do. That means that even if caregivers
commit to personal wound-recovery, they probably have already passed on
versions of the wounds and ignorance to their vulnerable dependents,
including grandkids and foster, step, and/or adopted kids.