Malnourishment in the final trimester results in much reduced levels of intelligence.
A child’s brain is most malleable to external influence during the last three months of pregnancy. Maternal well-being in the third trimester influences the way the neurons begin to work together in the fetus more profoundly than at any other stage in life. The mother who becomes over-stressed, for whatever reason, risks developing a chain reaction of micro-chemical imbalances which could inhibit a child’s neural development in ways that, subsequently, require months of expensive schooling to compensate.
Babies do hear in the womb. Even ten minutes after birth, a child, whose father has consciously been talking in proximity to the mother’s stomach, can distinguish its father’s voice from that of another male voice. Be careful though…playing Mozart is one thing, but computers that claim to start an unborn baby “to think maths” are as yet an untested and potentially frightening phenomenon!
Those of you with teenage children. Don’t be upset if they engage in apparent random acts of kissing! It now appears that, at a subconscious micro-chemical level, kissing is a biological way of assessing from the saliva of a possible partner their suitability for child rearing. And husbands who argue furiously with their wives when they are lost in some unfamiliar town…well, yes, you do each have different ways of forming spatial-understanding and different attitudes towards collaboration. By recognizing the sexes complementality, our ancestors developed survival strategies hundreds of thousands of years ago. Your husband is not really dumb – he’s a man!
Key Issue 1.a
“We have unequivocal evidence that breast-fed children are physically stronger than non-breast-fed children, that they have greater verbal, quantitative, and memory abilities as pre-schoolers and significantly higher I.Q. scores during their school years. This is due not simply to healthy substances in the milk, as many people assume, but also to the early mother-child relationship that breast-feeding implies.”
— Karl Zinsmeister
The American Enterprise
Think again about child rearing practices. The argument about breast-feeding producing a greater range of essential nutrients is well known. What may be far more significant however is the baby’s emotional need for long periods of mother-baby contact in triggering early brain growth. Not for nothing do the young baby’s eyes first come to focus at 13 inches – the normal distance between a baby at the breast and the mother’s own eyes. Remember this – emotional well-being may well be more important in developing general intelligence than early intellectual precocity.
“Children master most of the complexities of grammar with practically no explicit instruction from their parents, although extensive parent-child verbal interactions obviously provide an important environment for the effective development of a language.”
— Dr. Patricia Kuhl
White House Conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning, 1997
“Thus, learning becomes a delicate but powerful dialogue between genetics and the environment: the experience of our species from eons past interacts with the experiences we have during our lifetime.”
— Professor Robert Sylwester
A Celebration of Neurons, June 1995
It is in language development that we see the clearest operation of Predispositions. Children don’t form language skills accidentally. Every human baby is born with the ability to form basic grammar and word sequencing, and to make about a hundred structured sounds which can, in various combinations, be used to create every letter in each of the extant 6,000 languages on the Earth’s surface.
A child born in Sunderland this morning, taken to South Africa this afternoon and brought up by surrogate Swahili-speaking parents, would speak perfect Swahili by the age of five. Reverse the experiment and the same thing would happen. In both languages a child is subconsciously drawing upon some 60 of those structured phonemes. The brain is very economic however. Those phonemes not needed are “pruned” as early as the age of four, and this pruning is completed by the age of six or seven. That’s why the Japanese find it so difficult to speak English.
Learning is an extremely delicate balance between genetics and the environment. We have to understand both better if we are to develop a science of learning, an appreciation of what Henry Plotkin calls “evolution in mind.”
Key Issue 1.B
We are now finding the molecular answers to things that happen in the brain that we could only grope with from psychology, psychiatry and sociology. By failing to provide young children with supportive and nurturing environments in which they can develop their predispositions toward social, collaborative and team-building skills, young children’s brains react with astounding speed and efficiency to the violent world they experience around them by rewiring trillions of brain cells that literally create the chemical pathways for aggression. Aggression, rather than conciliation, becomes the action of first response.
— Largely based on Ronald Kotulak
Inside the Brain, 1996
Social skills (Empathy) the ability to read other people’s moods and respond accordingly, exist as powerful latent predispositions. But predispositions are, strictly, latent. If the environment is not conducive to their development in any one generation, that brain simply reshapes itself to those skills which are “helpful to survival.” This is not simply a moral issue. It has a biochemical-base which, once reversed, is far more difficult to “switch back.” We need to be worried.