A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

Absent Parenting: Harm Lingers for Years

absent parent

HOUSTON, Texas. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The human brain takes about 25 years to fully mature, but the first few years of life are developmentally critical. According to new research, a traumatic upbringing or a separation from a parent can be very harmful.

Jody Castro and her 5-year-old granddaughter, Scarlett, spend a lot of time together, just as she did with her own daughter.

“One of the things that I realized as a grandparent, when you’re raising your children, you’re also teaching them how to raise your grandchildren,” Jody told Ivanhoe.

But what happens when parents are absent, or children are separated from them? According to research, separation from a parent or caregiver is one of the biggest threats to early development—and that includes the separation of migrant families.

“If they’re not getting the cognitive attention that they need, regardless of whether the parent is there or not, that is still going to have a negative effect on the brain and behavioral development,” detailed Johanna Bick, PhD, the director of the Laboratory of Early Experience and Development at the University of Houston.

Professor Bick said that the trauma experienced by children who have been separated can manifest itself in later life, as adults who have trouble expressing emotions, difficulty relating to others, or anxiety. Bick said caregivers should realize the impact neglect or separation can have on the brain, teach their children coping skills for stress, and always pay close attention to their kids’ signals. It’s that back and forth between caregiver and child that can help kids develop the skills they need later in life.

Professor Bick, who helps run the Child Development Lab at the University of Houston, adds that parental interaction often helps the child develop the internal regulation that they need to succeed in life, when they are all grown up.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Donna Parker, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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