gmusic@nurturingnatures.co.uk

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...

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 difference to how we approach our work or other areas of our lives.

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Psychoanlysis' demise is exagerated

Psychoanalysis has been getting a bad press for quite a while now. It is not uncommon to read about it as something that went out with the dinosaurs, as having no evidence base and as long past its sell-by date [1]. Working at the Tavistock Clinic, which continues to practice and teach about psychoanalysis, as well as other modalities, can leave one feeling somewhat under siege. What is maybe overlooked is how much evidence has recently come forward which bears out many of the ideas of Freud and his successors.

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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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Telomeres, mindfulness, illness, dying young and our impulsive, inattentive world

A fascinating new study this week showed that people who have minds that wonder more, who cannot concentrate as much, also have shorter telomeres, a classic biomarker for ageing and cellular death. Telomeres protect the end of chromosomes and are a good predictor of immune functioning, early death and disease [1]. Participants were measured for aspects of psychological distress and well-being. The sample was highly educated and had a narrow range of both chronological age and psychological stress (most were low stress). Those with  a tendency to mind wander and concentrate less on tasks basically had shorter telomeres. Given that so much is suggesting that people’s attention spans are shortening, then this is a worrying finding.

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Farewell and thanks to the great Daniel Stern

This week saw the demise of one of the greatest figures ever in infancy research, and the person who really begun the process of linking developmental science and therapeutic practice. News of Daniel Stern’s death has shaken all who came into contact with him and who knew of his work. I am sure I am not the only person whose world was turned upside down when I first read what is still his best known work, The Interpersonal World of the Infant [1]. It is quite extraordinary how far the field has come since the publication of that seminal book. Looking back at that text, it was clearly a work of genius, so far ahead of its time, and in it Stern put into words so much that so many people had faintly intuited but could not make explicit. It was Stern who first taught us about affect attunement, a concept we take for granted now but which he had to persuade us of. He did this using research and videos about real babies, showing us how they were born primed to interact, to seek out faces and voices, born ready to be understood, feelingful beings who were also extremely intelligent. Stern’s baby was a real baby, alive, flesh and blood, and researchable, and those of us working therapeutically needed the evidence he brought to put alongside the theoretical psychoanalytic babies we had been taught about, by Freud, Klein, Winnicott, Lacan and others. His was a mind which would not be confined and he embraced not only psychoanalysis and infancy research, but creative arts and especially music, to help make sense of processes of change and development.

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Guest — Eleanor Patrick
An excellent resumée. Thanks for writing this for us all!
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 19:57
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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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A relationship between political allegiance and how our brains work

With the American election looming, yet another study has come out which is making links between the states of mind of voters and their political views [1]. Researchers looked at children at age one and then followed them up 17 years later. A key predictor of whether these 1 year olds turned out to be Republican voters when they grew up was whether or not their parents had authoritarian parenting attitudes. Authoritarian attitudes are characterised by being very disciplinarian and often harsh, as opposed to authoritative parents who can assert authority fairly but who have a more democratic approach. Children with authoritarian parents were more likely to have conservative attitudes at age 18, even after accounting for their gender, ethnic background, cognitive functioning, and socioeconomic status. Children who had parents with egalitarian parenting attitudes, on the other hand, were more likely to hold liberal attitudes as young adults. Another factor which predicted more conservative attitudes was being more fearful at ages 4 or 5.

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