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

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2006 11:36:08 +0000 (GMT)

Perhaps I replied too quickly..

--- Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> The article seems to me ambivalent on the nature/nurture debate. 

The article actually contains the following, which I did not deal with:- 

"The team followed a group of newborn rhesus monkeys with mothers that abused
and rejected them. They also studied eight newborn monkeys taken from their
birth mothers and placed with abusive ones instead.

Analysis of the monkeys? brain fluid revealed that those reared by abusive
mothers or abusive foster mothers had 10% to 20% less serotonin than monkeys
who had grown up without maternal abuse. This supports the idea that the drop
in serotonin results from mistreatment, rather than a genetic predisposition,
says Maestripieri."

The argument here depends on whether it is clear that the monkey's taken from
their birth mothers are taken from birth mothers who do not abuse and/or who
lack a genetic predisposition to abuse (even if they don't for some reason).
If this is so, the result arguably does support the view that it is
mistreatment rather than 'genetic predisposition to abuse' that explains the
drop in serotonin, and that it is mistreatment, mediated through the
resulting lower serotonin/greater aggression, that explains the perpetuation
of mistreatment.

However, the result is also compatible with there being 'a genetic
disposition to suffer lower serotonin/higher aggression when mistreated', and
therefore to explain things by way of genetic disposition that is activated
by the environment/treatment.

It also depends on it being clear that the drop in serotonin is not caused by
being removed from the birth mother i.e. that babies removed to non-abusive
mothers do not suffer any drop in serotonin or go on to perpetuate abuse.
This is not made clear in the article. 

I could go on...



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