Connecting childhood trauma, attachment, home-based services
A nurturing bonding between infants and the primary caregivers (typically parents) or early attachment has a tremendous impact on the health and well-being of children. The most important stage for development of an infant’s brain is at the beginning of life in utero and first couple years of life.In the first three years of life, the growth of the brain is amazingly rapid with an estimated rate of 700-1000 synapse connections per second and reaching 90 percent of its mature size. A baby’s brain development including social, emotional and cognitive development depends on anearly loving attachment relationship. Evidence across a variety of disciplines support that a lack of a loving nurturing attachment, neglect and unreliable parenting can result in long-term mental health problems and reduce resilience in children. The verbal and non-verbal communications, intricate interactions, and positive experiences an infant experience with their caregivers builds the millions of interconnections needed in the brain to enable and enhance learning, memory and relationship development. Supporting parents and children during this critical three years of life should be a priority for health care professionals, agencies and the community at large.
Mothers who are confident in their ability to take care of their child, experience less stress and they are more likely to develop a nurturing bond or attachment with their child.What a mom believes about her ability to nurture and parent her child will directly impact the quality of care she gives her child. Basically, nurturing responsive care by a mom early in a child’s life is the product of high maternal self-efficacy. High maternal self-efficacy is positively related to a child’s cognitive development and positive secure attachment.Maternal self-efficacy begins in a mother’s childhood and can be negatively impacted by adverse childhood experiences. Additionally, postpartum depression is often associated with low maternal self-efficacy and has also been linked to childhood maltreatment.
Therefore, mothers’ mental well-being and ability to provide quality child care can be negatively impacted by childhood trauma that she herself experienced. Health care professionals can serve a vital role in detecting possible past childhood trauma and post-partem depression which can help prevent low maternal self-efficacy and disorganized attachment. It is advised that OB/GYN practitioners integrate a screening tool in perinatal exams to access for past childhood trauma or spousal abuse. Also, since Pediatricians have contact with moms in the postpartum period, it is recommended to screen moms for post-partum depression during routine well child appointments.
In addition to health care professionals working with mothers and their young children, the community can also provide prevention interventions for mothers with postpartum depression and other parenting skills to help ensure safe stable attachment with their babies. Interventions should provide mothers with social and emotional support which can help support high maternal self-efficacy.Home-based programs such as Nurse Family Partnership (Children’s First) and Parents as Teachers are two home visitation programs that help strengthen a mother’s parental efficacy enhancing her ability to handle stress.
Home visiting is an effective prevention concept used to support pregnant mothers and new moms to promote infant health and child development.In the past, Payne County had highly effective Home-Based Programs including Children’s First, SafeCare and Parent’s as Teachers. Currently, Payne County does not have any home visitation program services available to support new moms. High-quality homebased programs such as Children’s First and Parents as Teachers provide vital support to parents, as they learn to handle the challenges of child care and help prevent child abuse and neglect. Also, these home visitation programs promote safe secure parent-child attachment and enhance parenting skills which can have an incredible impact on the health and well-being of children in our community. As a community, we must step up and identify the resources necessary to provide these important services for our Payne County Citizens.
If you are interested in learning more about meeting the needs of children and families in Payne County, please contact Resilient Payne County at RPC17ok@gmail.com.Carolynn MacAllister is Co-Coordinator