How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.

Separating children from their parents isn’t just immoral. It also threatens our national security.

The American Public Health Association wrote that the trauma from such separation could lead to alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, obesity and suicide. (While the White House says the policy will end for future migrants, it will still affect the thousands of children currently in custody.)

.. But even for those who believe immigration lawbreakers deserve punishment, there’s another argument against separating children from their families: national security. The government’s policy puts the United States at risk, in both the short and long term, by breeding a generation of children with psychological problems and a population elsewhere that reviles us. Traumatized children are prime recruits for extremist groups.

Their children and children’s children grow up in the shadow of, to use the language of 9,300 mental health experts, shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds.” As adults, these traumatized children are significantly more likely to have encounters with law enforcement.

.. An extensive body of literature documents how early childhood trauma creates cycles of violence that can destabilize whole nations.

.. most “deterrence” interventions, including jailing and family separation, actually triggered increased terrorist attacks.

.. In North America, the survivors of forced attendance in American Indian boarding schools have seen the effects reverberate for years. Scholars in Canada have drawn causal links between boarding school attendance (sometimes for children as young as 3) in the 1900s and elevated levels of depression, drug use and criminal behavior two generations later.

.. Native American women sent to boarding schools as girls were six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts and had a 57 percent higher rate of alcoholism as adults.

.. A 2016 study of 15,587 adult children of incarcerated parents found that separating children from parents directly increased interactions with the criminal justice system, including drug abuse and gang affiliation.

.. Syrian children separated from their support systems are “more likely to become

  • the youngest laborers in the factory,
  • the youngest brides at the altar, and
  • the youngest soldiers in the trench.”

.. The individual suffering of older children is immediately consequential to our security because incarceration centers have become recruiting grounds for armed groups. Trump’s favorite boogeyman, the MS-13 gang from which so many Salvadorans fleewas founded in Los Angeles prisons. The United States is keenly aware that young people can be easily radicalized while imprisoned

.. We have seen the radicalization of incarcerated youths firsthand. One of us, Steven Leach, spent years working with South African juveniles awaiting trial. These youths did not all enter detention as organized criminals, but without exception, among those who worked with Leach, each left prison a member of the gang.

..  A similar problem emerged in the internment camps of the Anglo-Boer war, in which British soldiers detained civilians to deter guerrilla campaigns by Boer insurgents. Approximately 115,000 people were held in the camps between 1901 and 1902; 22,000 Afrikaner children died. More than a century later, that horror remains at the forefront of the Afrikaner imagination

.. He leverages lies to stoke fear here: “We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!

..Naturally, this feeds radical anti-American sentiment and promotes nationalism abroad when the U.S. is most in need of alliances to solve global problems.

.. There is now strong evidence that punitive deterrence strategies don’t work, no matter how burdensome they are.

.. punishments between 2000 and 2015 effectively reduced economic migration from Mexico but had negligible impact on the population the administration is targeting with its current policy: asylum seekers fleeing violence.

The report points out that there is no consequence worse than death and violence at home for these migrants.

.. If these are people we want as enemies, we had better be prepared for a multigenerational war.