By now the reader will be aware that just as Climate Change is the biggest threat to the earth’s ecology, so is Developmental Trauma to our socio-psychological domain.
If we could only get those first 3 years of life right, a huge range of negative behavioural consequences would be reduced to more manageable levels……less violence, less terrorism, more empathy and compassion, more energy to apply to positive ends.
And yet, there is not a single government on Earth that has a well-developed policy on supportive interventions in the first 3 years of life. Not even the Scandinavian countries.
In the past few years, spurred on by increasing anxiety about child abuse, violent crime, delinquency, and drug misuse, public debate about the contribution of parents has become more intense. It has always been tempting to blame parents for the bad behaviour of their children, but there is a more thoughtful discussion. Without blame, it is possible to see what effects different kinds of parenting have on the lives of children, even extending into their own adult lives in the next generation. An enormous number of books and articles, conferences and policy statements have appeared, to the extent that we can say there is a movement towards supporting parents in their task. It is only possible to do this now that we understand just how difficult and stressful the task is. Until recently there was little public or professional acknowledgement of the immensity of parental commitment, perhaps because much of it was carried out by women, mostly mothers, whose voices were not heard. Even now it is easy for busy adults to resist a serious exploration of children’s needs, because to do so arouses poignant memories of one’s own childhood, both happy and sad, nostalgic and painful. In this chapter I outline a story of parenthood, from past to future, seen through the lens of attachment theory. Those working closely with families, such as health visitors, social workers, child carers and parent supporters in the voluntary sector need a coherent framework in which to understand family processes. They also need to know that their work cannot flourish in the absence of a coherent national policy on parenthood. The privatisation of children’s care and needs is no longer an option.
How to get the political parties in our nations involved in this vital task? They are not interested.
What we need are Ministers and Ministries in Early Childhood Nurturance, departments that can identify mothers/fathers at risk and in stress, and programmes that protect and nurture them, and help them develop their nurturance skills.
We can make a start by educating the public. It would be good to have a range of strong media presentations on the subject. In Australia, the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), could make a range of programmes for general consumption, examining findings in developmental neuroscience, looking at Developmental Trauma (the consequences of dysfunctional nurturance n those first 3 years) , and featuring a range of preventive and reparative programmes like the Bumps to Babes and Beyond organisation we featured earlier.
The commercial media would then become interested in offering similar productions, and past a certain point, there would be sufficient public energy to impact on the political process.