For decades, sociologists have been telling us how important it is for children to feel loved and cared for. Proof of that concept came in the 1990s after a political revolution in Romania. Over 170,000 abandoned infants, toddlers, and teenagers were housed in a network of government-run institutions known as “child gulags.” The children were provided with food, but very few received loving touch or attention. Most of the children never knew what it was like to love or to be loved. Their caregivers were an ever-changing lineup of nurses who didn’t hang around long enough for the children to develop trust.
Studies reveal that those children experienced significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety. In addition, their brain development was stunted, including motor skills and language mastery. One researcher said, “If you imagine these kids’ brains as a light bulb, it’s as though a dimmer reduced them from 100 watts to 30.”
Nearly 125 unique studies about childhood attachment have been done over the decades, and all confirm the same thing: children flourish when they’re surrounded by people who love and nurture them. That support can take many forms, but the nucleus of that system has always been the family – a mother and a father who invest their lives in each other and their children.