A pioneering symposium Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the “Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness” is coming October 10th through 12th at the University of Notre Dame.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the ways we are rearing our children today are not the ways humans are designed to thrive. The ill effects of these missing ancestral practices are becoming evident as children’s well being in the USA is worse than 50 years ago (Heckman, 2008) and is among the worst in the industrialized world (20th in family and peer relationships and 21st in health and safety; UNICEF, 2007). We have epidemics of ADHD, anxiety and depression among the young, indeed all age groups (USDHHS, 1999). Too many children are arriving at school with poor social skills, poor emotion regulation, and habits that do not promote prosocial behaviors…
Now is the time to reexamine the influence of early experience on child outcomes for two main reasons. First, the emergence of the cognitive, affective and social neurosciences (Cacioppo & Bernsten, 2004; Panksepp, 1998) has provided a greater focus on intrinsic aspects of social functioning. These disciplines have helped identify the types of brain functions that are typically found in mammalian brains, but they have not specified how these functions are normally expressed in humans, or how they are developed and expressed in response to cultural practices…
Second, in recent years a host of public, personal and social health problems have been skyrocketing in the USA, and increasingly around the world, for which science does not have consistent or reliable answers… Animal, human psychological, neurobiological and anthropological research provides converging evidence for the importance of early life conditions for optimal brain and body system development. At the same time, epigenomic studies are beginning to better demonstrate the influence of caregiver behavior on offspring.
An impressive group of speakers will present, beginning withJaak Panksepp from Washington State University. Panksepp is responsible for coining the term ‘affective neuroscience,’ and is renowned for his research in neural mechanisms of emotion.
Also presenting: Michael Meaney from the Douglas Institute specializing in maternal care, stress, and gene expression and Wenda Trevathan of NMSU whose concentrations include evolutionary and biocultural factors underlying human reproduction, specifically childbirth and maternal behavior.
Darcia Narvaez, associate professor of psychology at Notre Dame, is the lead organizer for the conference. Narvaez was previously featured in the post Triune Ethics: On Neurobiology and Multiple Moralities. You can find out more about her views on the issues at the core of the conference over at her blog Moral Landspaces in the post, written with Jaak Panksepp and Allan Schore, The Decline of Children and the Moral Sense.
Mother and child photo is the featured photo for the Human Nature and Early Experience conference.
Brain image from Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Link to the website for the conference Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the “Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness”