Mental disorders today are believed by many researchers to result when a biological predisposition is triggered by the environment. There are many types of environmental stimuli that are thought to have the ability to trigger mental disorders.
Early childhood experiences may be one such trigger. Many adults who grew up in families with less-than-ideal parents wonder if their troubles coping with life‚Äôs difficulties could have something to do with their early childhood experiences.
Some idea about whether or not early childhood experiences influence the development of mental disorders might be found in research on Attachment Style. Attachment Style in adulthood has been studied for the past 25 years.¬† Recent research combined all the results from all the studies to find out how early childhood experience with attachment might influence adult mental health (Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2009). this research involved over 10,000 people and over 200 studies.
What is Attachment Style
We find many people in life to love, but we form attachments to only a few people. Attachment is deeper than love. The attachment relationship is reserved for our parents, significant others, and children.
Attachment style is generally ¬†handed down from one generation to the next. You are likely to have the same attachment style that your mother had, and your children are likely to have the same attachment style as you do.¬† Attachment style can be upgraded in situations where one has a very caring spouse. It can also be downgraded by situations of loss‚ÄĒfor example, having a child with a handicap.
What is Your Attachment Style
Adults have three basic attachment styles:
- Secure-Autonomous Attachment
Securely- attached adults value relationships.¬† They describe their relationship to their caregivers as ‚Äúimportant‚ÄĚ to their personality formation. They are able to talk about their early childhood experience with their caregiver, whether those experiences were positive or negative, in a straight-forward and coherent manner.
- Insecure-Preoccupied Attachment
Adults with Preoccupied Attachment tend to ruminate their early childhood experience. They believe their relationship with their caregivers was critically important to their personality formation‚ÄĒperhaps impairing them in some way. ¬†They tend to be passive or angry when they describe their relationship with their caregivers.
- Insecure-Dismissive Attachment
Adults with dismissive attachment tend to minimize the impact of their early attachment experiences.¬† Alternatively, adults with dismissive attachment will idealize their attachment to their caregivers but not be able to provide concrete evidence to support their claims.
Evidence that Attachment with Caregivers Has an Influence on Mental Disorder
The result of combining all the research samples studying adult attachment styles suggested that an insecure style of attachment, whether it is Preoccupied or Dismissive, appears to increase the likelihood that a person will have a mental disorder.
Here is how persons who with no know mental disorders¬† compared with persons with a known mental disorder:
- No known mental disorder: ¬† Secure Attachment: 58 %; Insecure Attachment 42%
- Known mental disorder:¬† Secure Attachment¬† 27%; Insecure Attachment 73%
There is not enough evidence to definitively say that insecure attachment predisposes one to mental disorders.¬† The people with no known mental disorder had never sought treatment, while the persons with a known mental disorder had sought treatment. The groups that had not sought treatment had also not been screened for a mental disorder. The researchers were able to identify that many of the group that had not sought treatment had unresolved attachment issues (18%).
The most we can get from this study is that there appears to be a relationship between early childhood attachment experiences. People who have been diagnosed with mental disorders are more likely to have insecure attachment to their caregivers.¬† People who do not have a diagnosed mental disorder are more likely to have secure attachment. How that relationship comes about will need further study.
Finding out what causes mental disorders is important because it will lead to treatments that are even more effective than what we currently have.
Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2009,¬†May). The first 10,000 Adult Attachment Interviews: distributions of adult attachment representations in clinical and non-clinical groups. Attachment and Human Development, 11(3), 223-263.
But your adolescent can have a better experience.¬† Your adolescent’s summer can be the time the two of you focus on building a foundation for their successful life.¬† Plan on taking some time with your adolescent to talk about what they want for their lives and how to get it.
Researchers who have studied the process needed for adolescents to build successful lives have summarized their findings with the words “selection, optimization, and commitment” or SOC for short (Gestsdottir & Lerner, 2008).
- Selection: The adolescent selects goals that are appropriate and achievable.
- Optimization: The adolescent makes a “how-to” plan by thinking through resources available and resources needed.
- Commitment: The adolescent is able to keep on going for the goal when the planned strategy does not work.
Successful Life Strategies Require Selecting Goals
The mother in the picture above is using the opportunity of her daughter’s web search to talk about what her adolescent wants in life.¬† As she passed her daughter in the living room, she noticed that her daughter had her “Pinterest” account open, showing a shiny, blue Hyundai Elantra.
Mother: “Oh, my, Jesse, you have great taste in cars!”
Jessica: “Hi, Mom!¬† Yes, this is the car I want to buy when I get my license next month.”
Mother: “Oh, so you are planning on buying a car?¬† Have you thought about how to do that?”
Successful Life Strategies Require a “How-To” Plan
Jessica originally had thought that her parents might buy her the car for her birthday.¬† She was a little disappointed to hear that mom and dad had no plans for such an expensive, elaborate gift. Further, if she wants to drive, she will have to have car insurance–which must be paid monthly. This seems pretty overwhelming, but Jessica is a girl who is willing to work for what she wants.
Jessica: “So, mom, how much would it cost to buy this kind of car?”
Mother: “I was wondering the same thing. And of course, you would have to consider more than just the cost of the car.¬† There would be an initial fee for the license plate and property taxes. There would also be a monthly bill for auto insurance. And fuel for the car–you would need to be able to pay for the gas to take that car wherever you want to take it. ”
Jessica: “It sounds like I would need a job.¬† But I also need to keep up my grades at school. How can I do both?”
Mother: “I like how you are thinking.¬† Have you thought about the information you might need to figure that out?”
Jesse: “I need a lot of information. First, I need an idea about how much it will cost each month to have the car.¬† Then I will have to figure out how many hours I would need to work each month to make that kind of money.”
Mother: “You are right on target!¬† And most important, you might look at whether you would be able to spend that amount of time working and still make good grades and spend some time with your friends.”
Successful Life Strategies Require Commitment
Jessica figured out that she would have to work about 15 hours a week to afford a two-year old version of her dream car.¬† She would need to pay $1,000 down–and she only had $300 in her savings account.¬† She also did not have a job. She could see that it was possible to get that car and fill her obligations at a job and school–but it might not leave enough time to have fun with her friends. Still, if she had a car, she could drive herself to school. It would also signal important people in her life that she was growing up and becoming independent. This would be especially true if she had a part-time job.
Jessica:¬† “Mom, if I got the car, I might not have the time I need to hang out with friends. I would be working all the time that I am not studying or going to school.¬† But I still want to get my own car and have a job.¬† So maybe I need a less expensive car. How do I go about making this happen?”
Mother:¬† “Jesse, you are showing good problem-solving skills.¬† But I need to admit, I certainly don’t know much about buying cars at an affordable price.¬† Do you know anyone who might have some ideas. . .”
The Positive Outcomes
Jessica, of course, was very happy when she drove a used car home from the auction lot (which was a plan she made after consulting with her dad). She enjoyed showing her car off to her friends. She even enjoyed working 8 hours a week at a local burger joint.
But best of all–she had learned that she is a “get-it-done” kind of girl.¬† She can organize her behaviors to get what she wants in life and to be the kind of person she wants to be. She enjoyed holding the mature-looking car keys in her hand.¬† But she also had the kind of keys to turn her behaviors toward creating the kind of life and lifestyle of her choosing.¬† She like those keys best of all.
Gestsdottir, S., & Lerner, R. M. (2008). Positive development in adolescence: The development and role of intentional self-regulation.¬†Human Development,¬†51, 202-224. doi: 10.1159/000135757
Summertime offers parents an opportunity to increase children‚Äôs competence by focusing on skill development. ¬†Skill development requires concentration, which instantly improves mental health and reduces complaints of being ‚Äúbored‚ÄĚ. Here is Moxie Mental Health‚Äôs list of Summertime Learning Opportunities for Children.¬† Adults who love to learn may themselves be captivated by these sites.
Www.artistshelpingchildren.org/howtodraw.html . Artists Helping Children contains learn-to draw lessons and how to make crafts from paper and recyclables.
Www.drawinghowtodraw.com/drawing-lessons/improve-drawing/drawing-for-beginners.html¬† How to Draw contains links several learn-to-draw sites which are appropriate for children as well as adults.¬† One of them is entitled ‚ÄúHow to See and Draw the Shape of Things and Figures‚ÄĚ.
Www.kidsfront.com/how-to-draw-pictures.htm¬† Kids Front How to Draw Pictures contains step by step drawing of cartoon figures and other images.
Marshallbrain.com/kids-programming.htm¬† Marshall Brain provides parents with ideas and sources to engage their children in computer instruction through games that teach problem solving to the web sites that teach coding and programming languages.
¬†Www.squidoo.com/teach-computer-programming¬†¬† Teach-Computer-Programming gives parents a graded sequence of programming languages children can learn and apply from ages 7 on. It also includes where to find the instruction for the languages. ¬†Languages include logo (for youngest kids) up through Java and Python (for older kids).
Child and Me has instructions on (would you believe it?) how to teach math to babies.¬† It is an article from Science Daily describing games researchers have found work at teaching children math.
Www.aplusmath.com ¬†¬†Aplus math teaches math to children from primary through middle school. The site uses a multimedia approach including games, flashcards, worksheets, and tutorials. The site also gives parents tips on teaching children math.
Www.enchantedlearning.com¬† A comprehensive site with activities for children that teach math, science, English, Spanish.¬† The resource-intense site has an annual fee of $20.00 annually.
Www.khanacademy.com¬† site that helps parents diagnose and remediate math ¬†and skills.¬† Includes over 3,000 videos on math (and many other subjects), as well as instructional materials . A google interface enables children to do the work, and parents to get reports based on their child‚Äôs work.
Clicknkids.com.¬† This is a great site for parents who want to teach their children how to read. Price is a one time $58.95. Additional children can be added on to the program for $19.95 each.
Www.sciencenewsforkids.org/mysnk/for-kids ¬†Science news for kids includes pictures and information for kids on chemistry, geology, biology, and health.
Www.sciencekids.co.nz/geology.html colorful page from New Zealand has links for geology games, facts, and projects for kids
Www.kids.gov/6_8/6_8_science_geology.shtml This site from the U.S. government has links to sites that teach geology to children from kindergarten to grade 8.
Www.rockhoundkids.com Rock hound kids has links to many websites with information about how to find rocks and build a collection.
Library.thinkquest.org/J001539¬† Think Quest has instruction on basic chemistry for kids for kids. The site includes glossary.
Faculty.washington.edu/chudler/introb.html¬† This is a large site with links about neuroscience for kids.¬† This site has great illustrations about how the body‚Äôs nervous systems work.
Sciencespot.net/Pages/kdzbio.html¬† This is the biology section of sciencespot.net, and is designed for children and teachers of middle-school aged.
Writing Instruction and Contests
Www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/doc/resources/help_write.csp¬† The National Writing Project site has ideas for parents to encourage good writing .
Owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/680/1/¬† The Owl site contains a plethora of guides for parents who want to encourage good writing in their children.
Www.time4writing.com/¬† Time4writing offers eight weeks of online writing instruction for k-12 students with an instructor.¬† Price: $99.00 for eight weeks.
Www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/basic/yngwrite.html¬† Noodle Tools has about 30 writing ¬†contests for young writers, third graders through high school.