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This blog is to critically introduce, and contextualise, new research findings from developmental research, neuroscience, attachment theory  and other areas of psychology that are topical or are likely to whet the appetite of  anyone interested. The aim is to discuss research which will feel relevant and which might even, if lucky, make a differenc...e to how we approach our work or other areas of our lives. More

Fat is a political issue: obesity , unhappiness and avoiding simplistic solutions

 In the face of an encroaching obesity epidemic pundits constantly resort to simplistic and judgmental solutions, many of  which blame sufferers, and worse, prescribe treatments and solutions that don’t work and don’t tackle the roots of the problem. Indeed our culture is rife with judgemental attitudes about weight and shape. Few of us are immune to preoccupations with our bodies, our kilo count, fat rolls, thigh sizes or belly width. Diet and food books consistently make the top 10 bestseller lists in the UK while rising obesity levels are seen as a huge threat to the NHS budget. While pubs serve ‘heart attack’ 2000 calorie burgers,  rising numbers of   ‘super-obese’ young people are being prescribed surgery.  With all the angst, guilt and powerful opinionating  we are too often left with a plethora of one-dimensional solutions and strident ideas, yet with too little understanding of what might lead to ‘issues’ of weight.

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Investing in health? We need early interventions or else it is too late

The labour party seem to be pledging to invest heavily in the NHS. While this is commendable there is a degree of naivety in how the crisis in healthcare is being understood. More than anything this is because the roots of so many health problems are in very early experiences, and start with psychological stressors, or rather psychobiological insults, which affect which genes are turned on or off, an epigenetic effect which indeed transmits across generations. An old fashioned medical model in which current, and purely physical,  symptoms are identified and treated, can no longer be sufficient. 

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The importance of the lost arts of play, doing nothing and just being

 

On recent more balmy summer days it has been a great pleasure watching children mucking around on beaches, doing what kids have always done at seasides, build sandcastles, play make-believe games, muse, have fun, go with the flow not knowing what is going to next trigger their imaginations. It has been equally nice to be one of the many adults mulling around footpaths, sitting around on benches, not worrying much about having an agenda. This seems an increasingly rare experience in a world where there are more and more pressures, life is incredibly timetabled, increasingly so for children as well as adults, and there is such a lot of focus on achievement, on doing, on things to aim for like grades, and so little emphasis on just being. As Jon Kabat Zinn, the mindfulness guru suggests, maybe we are becoming human doings and not human beings! I worry that just being is becoming a lost art and that life is becoming much poorer as a result.

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The fiver challenge, primary school kids as Alan Sugar acolytes?

 School kids as young as 5 are to be encouraged to become entrepreneurs in a new government initiative announced last week, spearheaded by Lord Young and publicly backed by  David Cameron. Much about this worries me, even if we do need to encourage entrepreneurial spirits and there is a certain logic to the plan. While not a Faustian pact, such initiatives give a very clear message about what we as a society value and maybe more importantly, research shows that encouraging business and money oriented attitudes create a likelihood that children's more prosocial and generous character traits will be toned right down as self-interest and more instrumental motives become stronger.  

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Raising driven immoral kids?

 

A version of this appeared in the Telegraph recently, and can be accessed here 

Are results obsessed, league-table crazed state schools churning out pupils who are less moral than their posh public school counterparts, as headmaster Richard Walden recently claimed.? As so often with misconceived hyperbole, his statement contains a kernel of truth, and indeed raises fundamental questions that need answering.  After all, don’t we all want a more moral society, and to raise our kids to be well-rounded human beings who are not only caring of others, embrace and live by cultural and ethical values and are motivated by more than achievement, status and money?

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Neuromythmakers or neuro-deniers? A response to Zoe Williams (with Sue Gerhardt)

This article is a response to Zoe Williams’ piece in the guardian which can be accessed here.  This piece, which critiqued the use of neuroscience in child protection policy,  has generated considerable controversy. Many letters were published about it, many  upset and surprised that she took this line. Letters can be accessed here

 

Zoe Williams, a journalist whose politics we have generally agreed with,  lines up witnesses for the prosecution against what she sees as inappropriate use of brain science in social policy. She scores some direct hits. Yes, there have been clumsy attempts to grab attention with extreme images of severely neglected shrivelled brains. Yes, some attempts to explain the neuroscience have been crude. But a few examples of bad practice do not invalidate an entire body of rigorous science.

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