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Rock A Bye Baby

Labels: Informed Choice
Written by A Time Life Documentary   
Tuesday, 07 October 2008 13:26
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Rock A Bye Baby
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The Time Life documentary "Rock A Bye Baby" describes the influence of different practices in infant treatment and child rearing on emotional development, both in humans and in monkeys.

In the beginning, it is noted that the contact of the child to the mother represents the first socio-emotional interaction the child experiences and lays the fundamentals for its later behaviors. We learn that social animals isolated from their mothers and receiving no nurturing physical affection develop severe depression and can die from such deprivation. In addition, maternal-infant isolation that leads to sensory deprivation can cause developmental brain damage. These facts show that mother love has a neurobiological basis that is essential for life.

Next we are introduced to Harry Harlow's experiments with surrogate mothers which have shown that monkeys raised alone in an environment without mother and peers prefer to be with a cloth-covered mother surrogate without a milk bottle rather than with a wire-cage surrogate mother that provides a milk bottle, even when hungry.

They even cling to their cloth-covered wooden dolls when they are frightened and they experience the same emotional stress other social animals experience when isolated from their surrogate mothers. These experiments show that the need for a loving relationship (percepted, in this case, by the "fur") is stronger than the mere need for food even when hungry. Thus, love-hunger is stronger than food-hunger.

Harlow's experiments are part of most psychology textbooks of today.

The single greatest contribution to understanding the mother-infant separation syndrome was provided by Drs. William Mason and Gershon Berkson in their swinging mother surrogate experiments where the importance of body movement (vestibular-cerebellar simulation) in mother-infant bonding was documented. Monkeys raised singly in cages in a colony room with stationary cloth mother surrogates were compared to those raised with swinging cloth mother surrogates. The infant monkeys reared on the stationary mother surrogate developed all of the abnormalities which isolation-reared monkeys develop – depression, social withdrawal, aversion to touch, stereotypical rocking and chronic toe and penis sucking, self-mutilation and pathological violence as juveniles and adults.

The infant monkeys reared on the swinging surrogate mother developed normally with only minor stimulus-seeking behaviors, e.g. thumb-sucking. Depression, social withdrawal and avoidance of touch were absent in the swinging mother surrogate reared infant monkeys.

There are good reasons why infants and children seek to be carried on the bodies of their mothers and fathers and love to be rocked to sleep.