The last IPS and YOU discussed how important holding and talking to babies is to their long term development. While there is ample research to support this, the most bizarre and disturbing proof comes from the end of the Cold War. Rumania’s Nicoale Ceausescu was the tyrant leader of that failing nation. Desparate to grow the economy, he decreed that the population must grow and grow fast, so he eliminated all forms of birth control and made it a felony for a woman to have an abortion. Birth rates did rise, but not in the way anticipated. You see, wealthy or even middle income people were able to find birth control on the black market but poor women were not and as a result, unwanted pregnancies skyrocketed among the people who could least afford it. As a result, many thousands of children were abandoned and put into “orphanages” to be raised by the State.
While in these institutions, babies were properly fed and clothed, but the rest of the time left alone in their cribs, unloved and untouched. After a few years Ceausescu fell from power, leading to another crisis as the state run orphanages were closed. Thousands of well intentioned parents, primarily from the US and UK, rushed to adopt these children. However, within months it was clear something was very wrong as many of these children were failing to bond with their adoptive parents and siblings, regardless of how much love and care was given. Over time the problem became worse as adoptees withdrew further, many becoming disruptive and even abusive to their new families. A mental health crisis was triggered, during which researchers saw first hand the long term impact that insufficient physical touch had for a new born’s long term development.
There is no happy ending to this story unless you count Ceausescu being executed by firing squad, after a very efficient one hour trial. But back to the point—starting right at birth it is critical to hold, talk to, and encourage your child in order to support their healthy, long term development.