Affection Becomes Nutrition - Part1

In instances when children are not able to receive affection from their mothers, it could be either intentional or circumstantial.

When it is intentional, there is usually a problem with the mother, but, by circumstantial, I mean that theses children could be unable to gain affection from their mothers because they are war orphans or orphans from a car accident. In pediatrics, we call these kinds of situations, "deprivation syndrome". In circumstantial situations, we could call it, "passive deprivation syndrome".

Any child who is deprived of his/her mother's affection is heavily wounded emotionally and sometimes physically, although they may be in a better condition than what they call Battered Child Syndrome which occurs among children in the former case.

A Story of Two Orphanages

After the second World War (WWII), Germany was split up and occupied. In the area where England took over, there were two orphanages. Thus, the children who have deprivation syndrome were placed in these places.

The following is something I do not even know if it was intentional or planned. One English doctor analyzed the weight gains of these children and reported the following. When I read the documents as a pediatrician, I was deeply moved.

Now, I should name the two orphanages "A" and "B". In the A orphanage, the director of the orphanage was a strict Catholic nun. Her rules consisted of, no making any noise while drinking your soup, you must blow your nose quietly, you should not make loud noises and become overly excited, etc. etc. The nun in the B orphanage was just the opposite and would melt when she saw children, rushing toward them when she saw them and giving them a pat on the head whenever she had the chance.

Since it was during the time right after WWII, the amount of food available was limited. Each person was allotted a certain number of pieces of bread or a certain amount of sugar and butter. However, when they compared the children's weights, they found that they were able to observe a clear difference between the children of orphanage A and B, although the amount and quality of food given to each child was exactly the same. It seems understandable, when we hear the result of the children in orphanage B (the one with the nun who loved children) to have had considerable weight gain.

However, there is a little twist in the story. In the A orphanage (with the strict nun), eight of the children had more weight gain than the others, although still less than what was reported in orphanage B.

When they investigated, they discovered that these eight children who had gain whatever little weight, were the "favorites" of the strict nun. They gained weight because for whatever reason, maybe the nun found them more compliant or quieter than the others, this strict nun favored these children, and ultimately they were able to gain more weight than the others.

Another twist comes when the nun who loved children quit, and there was a rearrangement among the orphanages. Now, the strict nun took the eight orphans she favored and moved to orphanage B, and the newly hired nicer nun was hired at orphanage A (originally the orphanage of the stricter nun). When the stricter nun came to orphanage B, she even increased the food portions, as she had to have everything just so.

The children in orphanage A (where the nicer nun came) quickly caught up to that of the original orphanage B children's weights. But on the other hand, the children's weight in orphanage B, where the stricter nun had gone, although they increased the amount of food portions, did not increase significantly. Eventually the children's weight of orphanages A and B crossed and the story was reversed. In other words, the children who originally had the stricter nun in orphanage A, but were now under the care of the nicer nun, increased their weight while the opposite happened for children of orphanage B (who now were under the care of the stricter nun), except for the eight lucky few who were the favorites of the strict nun.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Aijo mo Eiyo to naru - 1"(written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved March 4, 2003, from the World Wide Web
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