Science is Complicated

Jul. 92024

It is a fact that how we treat our children can have permanent effects on their well-being. That’s probably not a surprise to most of you. Still, the fact that our behavior can have a real and measurable effect on our children’s growing brains should make us want to be very careful about how we discipline our children. I can’t emphasize enough that yelling at our children and hitting them is not appropriate. Remember that we need to say yes (or praise) our children 10 times as often as we say no. And children need to know by our behavior that we are paying attention to them and appreciating what they’re doing. Toddlers especially may look like they’re acting randomly, but they are learning how the world works. They will recognize the right way to act a lot faster if you tell them what a good job they’re doing. They’ll keep doing what gets your attention whether it makes you happy or angry. Keep finding ways to encourage good behavior and continue to control your own feelings. It takes more than twenty years for our brains to mature. Don’t expect your toddlers or your teenagers to understand complex issues like cause and effect or the consequences of their actions. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, feel free to bring up the subject with your pediatrician.

I recently read an article that I believe gives us some very important information about this subject. Maybe you wouldn’t think so from the title, which is “Differential methylation of OPRK1 in borderline personality disorder is associated with childhood trauma”, but in fact we can learn several important things if only we can interpret the science.

The subject of the article is that both physical and emotional neglect can lead to serious mental health disturbances, but we’re not talking about vague aspects of behavior. The investigators actually measured chemical imbalances that are associated with these disturbances. The imbalances which they measured occurred because of damage to genes that control these chemicals, yet the damage was not something the patient was born with. It was caused by something that happened to them after birth – some kind of emotional or physical trauma.

There is a final thing that we can Learn from this article — the generalization that science is complicated and takes a lot of education. Sometimes scientists get things wrong, and sometimes their conclusions are incomplete. But mostly we must rely on the experts to be better informed than we are. If you read something in a newspaper or see something on TV, you may be getting an incorrect interpretation of some complicated information. And when it comes to medical information, your doctor is more likely to know how to find out what you want to know than anyone else.

Meet the Author: Dr. Robert Golenbock
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