Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bless the Beasts, But Not the Children

I just read this story about this boy names Justin who was raised like a dog till the age of 6, and while the story itself was horrid, the scientific and societal implications behind the story struck me like a sledgehammer.

In the U.S. alone, there are about 3 million cases of child abuse or trauma reported each year. Many of these are repeat offenses, and at least a half million of these are new cases. That means that at any given time at least 8 to 10 million children are suffering from some childhood trauma.

These childhood traumas affect neurological development, sometimes in permanent ways. Which means that even given a good environment later in life (which is far from the norm for most of these children anyway), there is little to be done for the harm caused to emotional, social, and cognitive abilities.

What's worse is that these children grow into adults who have suffered from a childhood trauma (and resultant neurological disorders). Depending on the trauma, this can drive neurotic or even pathological behaviors in adulthood. So we have at any time 50-70 million neurotic or pathological adults running around.

Many of those who have children have a tendency to abuse or inflict trauma on their children. And so it continues, generation after generation.

And what do we do about it? Where does this huge societal problem fall in terms of political priorities? Is this less important than immigration reform? Copyright protection? Gay marriage? Animal abuse?

Not only is this not a priority, but it seems that a number of politicians actively strive to make it even worse for children. (See CHIP funding reductions, bills for eliminating medicare, even education, for children of undocumented immigrants).

I have a theory that a high percentage of really driven people (such as politicians, fundamentalist extremists, some business leaders) are part of this traumatized demographic.

I don't have studies to support this hypothesis (although perhaps that's because such information is discouraged from publication by strongly ambitious and pathological politicians.) I'll try not to derail into the swamp of conspiracy theories, but something needs to the cause of so much inaction on what should be a top priority.

Food. Shelter. Protection from harm. Health care (particularly for children). These must be the priorities of any society, because a lack of these has negative, long lasting impact on any other function.

If we could just get our priorities straight, we could accomplish so much more.

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