gmusic@nurturingnatures.co.uk

IQ and genes, Cummings, Gove, prejudice, inequality, social conditions and parenting

Michael Gove’s longstanding advisor, Dominic Cummings has just released a huge document in which he makes many worrying claims, the most pernicious of all being the statement that educational outcomes are most predicted by IQ levels and genetic inheritance. Such ideas are not only dangerous,  they are also completely wrong.

We have long known that IQ is a moveable feast and IQ levels are incredibly responsive to one’s current environment and are also highly related to the kinds of early experiences one has. Cumming’s ideas are yet another way that right wing politicians bash the poor and those who achieve less well and justify the gains from the social and educational advantages that the more affluent can give to their children.

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Poverty, speeding up the life course and mental and physical health problems

This week we learnt that even the government has admitted that the new squeeze on benefits is likely to push another 200,000 children into poverty  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/17/benefits-squeeze-200000-children-poverty).

Almost every week studies come out showing the impact of poverty and economic stress and hardship on psychological health.  One very interesting study which is about to be published [1] has shown very clearly that children born onto worse economic circumstances are likely to have a different psychological makeup through their lifespans. This research is based on Life History Theory, propounded by many evolutionary psychologists and researchers such as Jay Belsky. The science seems to be showing that if we are born into an environment where stress, anxiety, fear or trauma are likely, then we live a ‘faster life course’, and for example, breed earlier, take more risks and also die younger and have worse health.

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Just Giving for Christmas

In our increasingly high octane and money/market oriented world it is sometimes hard to really believe in old fashioned human values such as altruism. Christmas of course challenges that. There is such a gluttonous consume and spend fest, and such a lot of anxiety about getting enough, buying the right thing, and a lot of confusion between what we really want to do as opposed to what we feel we have to do, and motives can get horribly jumbled.

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Guest — Asha Phillips
As usual Graham you are fascinating and bring research to life in easy to grasp and relevant form. Thank you
Tuesday, 25 December 2012 12:52
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Poverty and unemployment plays havoc with physical and mental health

A raft of studies are pointing to the worrying effects of poverty on worse physical and mental health. A new American study showed that being unemployed, even for a short period of time, increases the risk of heart attacks, and that having multiple job losses massively ups that risk. [1]. This was a big study, of over 13,000 Americans between 50 and 70 over nearly a decade. The risk of acute myocardial infarction after  job losses were very high, as great as seen in smoking, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

These processes seem to start very early. Rather frighteningly, a new study has even found that child poverty as well as stress as an adult, and living in poor neighbourhoods, can all have an effect on one’s gene expression, particularly in relation future immune responses. [2]. This study showed that people who had experienced childhood poverty had different gene methylation from those who hadn't, despite the fact everyone in the cohort had achieved the same socioeconomic status later in life. Early poverty left a detectable and lasting molecular mark on an individual's DNA.

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Child abandonment, the recession, austerity and our society’s values

This week in the news we read about another mother, Felicia Boot,  killing her 14 month and 10 week old children. This time there was no charge for murder and psychiatrists are involved. This is one of a spate of such killings, some of which become high profile. Not so long ago we read about Veronique Courjault, an ex pat French woman living in South Korea who killed three of her children, burning one, and two being discovered in her freezer. She was sentenced to 8 years in prison. In all such cases when one digs a bit deeper there are serious mental health issues and often terrible depression.

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Povery, parenting and impulsivity

This week was typical in my NHS therapy work in that just about all the cases I was involved with concerned children, mainly but not only boys, who have come from emotionally neglectful situations, but also dire poverty and very deprived environments,  and who seem to be a huge worry to professionals and other adults in their lives. It is striking how many are excluded from school, have few friends, cannot concentrate very much, have little capacity to understand their own and other people’s emotional states, and are very impulsive. Many of us in the field take this for granted now, but have struggled to both make sense of the exact mechanisms and to do enough to help with such issues.

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