[lit-ideas] Re: Child abuse: nature or nurture?

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2006 11:13:55 +0000 (GMT)

--- Ursula Stange <Ursula@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Along with the bad parental behaviour model, and the physical and mental 
> suffering, the little ones also seem to suffer chemical changes that 
> pre-dispose them to repeat the behaviours.   A triple whammy...it's a 
> wonder that we do as well as we do as a species.

The article centres on the following:-

"Dario Maestripieri at the University of Chicago in Illinois, US, and
colleagues found that baby rhesus monkeys that endured high rates of maternal
rejection and mild abuse in their first month of life produced less of the
brain chemical serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety
and depression and impulsive aggression in both humans and monkeys."

Extrapolating from this to our species is possible but it is clear we are
dealing with "rejection and mild abuse" rather than sexual abuse or severe
physical abuse such as happens to human children. The extrapolation there,
and the explanation for perpetuation, might be more problematic. 

The article seems to me ambivalent on the nature/nurture debate. That is, the
result obtained is consistent with:-
a) mothers with a genetic disposition towards "mild abuse" pass on this
genetic disposition which is mediated through lower serotonin/higher
agression (which may themselves be the product of genetic disposition) [cf.
the heritability of aggression, depression etc.]
b) without bringing in "genetic disposition" or heritability as the
explanation as per (a), mothers who engage in "mild abuse" acculturate their
offspring to abuse which is then perpetuated on their offspring, such
perpetuation being mediated through lower serotonin/higher aggression.


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