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“Snakes and Ladders”: the game of psychological evolution

In the animated movie “The Croodz” set in prehistoric times, a grumpy grandmother hears the definition of a pet (“It’s an animal you don’t eat”) and responds, bewildered,  “We call those: children.”Continue Reading →

What was the climate of our childhoods?

Most people think of childhoods as either happy or sad, sunny or stormy. That’s probably because most of us think of our own upbringing as a rather sunny one (see what Alice Miller has to say about this), and a few have shared or have heard friends share traumatic experiences – so we know stormy ones exist, too. The one type of childhood environment I have rarely ever heard people describe is overcast. Is it because it doesn’t exist, or is it a blind spot, not worthy of discussion? If we turn out sane enough, that logic goes, we might as well consider ourselves lucky enough and get on with life.Continue Reading →

The sad paradox of early childhood

The sad paradox of early childhood is that the activities associated with babies are perceived to be so low in adult intellectual content, that we don’t realize how critically important they are for their brain development. In fact, secure attachment is the single most important developmental goal in the first years of life. All social, emotional and cognitive skills hinge on it.Continue Reading →

Personality Physics: the Discovery of Reactivity

A recent conversation with fellow parents sent me looking for what developmental research says about whether human beings are born with personality. Can we say that our neonate was born “a loner”, “affectionate”, or “opinionated”? Or do we lose credibility by straying beyond “calm”, “alert”, “irritable”, and “physically active”? Are personality traits coded in our genes? Or are they shaped by experience into the neural wiring in our brains? What I read surprised me. At the core of personality lies a nucleus, partly genetically determined, whose intensity has far reaching effects.Continue Reading →