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The Effect of Affection on the Well-Being of a Person: What happens to the abused child?

In my last message, I discussed how good nutrition is not enough for the smooth functioning of the "emotional program" but that the element of joie de vivre is also an important factor. I also referred to Professor Widowson's research about the correlation between nutrition and affection on the weight gain/loss of the orphans after the war. In this message, I would like to discuss in more detail, the relationship between body and soul. In pediatric clinical practice, it is common to encounter concerns of parents where they seek medical treatment because of their children's low height. Most often, it is genetic, but sometimes it is a specific kind of dysfunction regarding the secretion of the growth hormone. This certainly calls for pediatric consultation and treatment.

Although it is rare, there are cases of low growth rate caused by the mother not being able to love her child and care for the child tenderly. In sever cases, the mother resorts to beating her child, which is now becoming more recognized and written up in newspapers as child abuse.

These abused children almost always show signs of behavioral maladjustments. In fact, instead of treating these children for their growth problems, it is commonplace to treat them rather for their aberrant behaviors.

They are usually expressionless and show no initiative-taking behaviors. Some cases involve children overeating with no appreciation of the food and later vomiting or having diarrhea. Sometimes they have abnormal eye appearance and movement as well as behavior problems such as shaking their head viciously or hitting their own head repetitively against a wall. They are unable to play either alone or with their peers. A lag in their development of cognitive and language skills are also observable in these children.

It is possible to describe these symptoms in terms of a dysfunction in the child's physical and emotional programming. Loss of expression and spontaneity, the lag in language and cognitive development can be identified as problems in the emotional program. On the other hand, problems related to eating and following metabolism, as mentioned above, can be referred to as problems in the physical program. These children are able to recover, quite rapidly, both emotionally and physically when they are hospitalized or admitted to institutions where they are able to receive much affection and tender care.

In the past, these children were often referred to having low growth rate due to deprivation of maternal affection, or, in short, "maternal deprivation syndrome". This inevitably places most of the responsibility on the mother and blames her for the child's outcome. However, recently, it has been acknowledged that the cause of the mother's stress is coming from a dysfunctional family system. Thus, the father is also responsible for the well-being of the child, and now the children are being referred to as just "emotional deprivation syndrome". What remains the same, though, is that affection is still a great cure for these children.

I would like to share one more story with you. It was almost ten years ago, when I was serving as a board member for the International Pediatric Association. We held our meeting that year in Paris to celebrate French Revolution Bicentennial. Professor Monkeberg, a pediatrician from Chile was our Keynote Speaker and he spoke specifically of one of the cures for malnutrition as being affection! In his research, outside of the regular medical treatments, he employed a maternal figure (volunteer) who cared for the children with affection. He realized that the children who received this affectionate care recovered three to four times quicker than those who did not receive this special treatment. Of course, this is exactly like the story I told you before with the orphans and Dr. Widowson. Moreover, what amazed me further was that no children died of malnutrition after this treatment.

Malnutrition causes the body's defense mechanisms to slow down and poor antibody production which causes many infectious or bacterial physical problems such as diarrhea or pneumonia. These problems often lead to an accelerated death of these children. Even common sicknesses for children such as chickenpox or measles become serious sicknesses and often lead to death. However, Dr. Monkeberg reported that no child died in his study.

I believe that the above proves that affection functioned as an antibiotics for these children and helped the molecular and cellular activities of the immune system. Affection acts as a nucleus to the emotional program of children, which in turn positively affects the physical program. We are able to observe a smooth functioning of the emotional and physical program when affection is the nucleus, which leads to what I have been referring to as, joie de vivre, or esprit of the child, facilitating a healthy development. On the contrary, when this nucleus is lacking, physical malfunctions and emotional maladjustment become apparent in the child.
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