Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions


New Report Explains Why More Children Suffer Emotional, Behavioral Problems; Cites Importance of Nurturing Environments


September 10, 2003
Wednesday - 12:55 am

On Tuesday the YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for America's 2,540 YMCAs, along with Dartmouth Medical School and the Institute for American values released a new report, "Hardwired to Connect: The Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities."

This report documents a "crisis of American childhood" -- "high and rising rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, suicidal thoughts and other serious mental, emotional, and behavioral problems" -- and proposes a fundamental "social change model" for addressing the crisis, including basic shifts in U.S. public policy.

The report, prepared by the Commission on Children at Risk, a panel of 32 leading children's doctors, neuroscientists, research scholars, and youth service professionals, stresses for the first time that networks of enduring, nurturing relationships significantly strengthen brain development, diminishing the likelihood of aggression, depression, and substance abuse. These networks, identified in this report as "authoritative communities", YMCAs among them, have long been thought to help children thrive. Scientific support for this hypothesis is now indisputable. The report also recommends our society pay more attention to children's moral and spiritual needs.

"Children need connections to people to survive and to thrive," U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said. "Generally, we do a good job of providing for the material needs of our children, we are less effective at providing for their emotional needs. As a society we need to focus our energy on promoting all aspects of our childrens' health -- physical, mental, and emotional."

"It is good to see a secular group of researchers, neuroscientists, children's doctors and other professionals -- not a religious leader or scholar among the bunch -- make the case that Americans neglect the moral and spiritual needs of children at our peril," said Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families U.S. Department of Health and Human and Services.

Key findings of Hardwired to Connect include:

  • Surrounding kids with a richly nurturing environment from birth through adolescence is critical to promoting their healthy physical, emotional, moral, and spiritual development.
  • Positive social, moral, and spiritual development is integral to the healthy overall development of children and youth, and, consistent and effective nurture from committed and caring adults.
  • The work of providing this nonacademic nurture is done largely by families, neighborhoods, community groups, and religious organizations - what the Commission calls "authoritative communities."

"For the first time, with this report we are able to identify based on strong research those characteristics of social groups - whether of families or other social groups -- that will produce good outcomes for children," said Dr. Kathleen Kovner Kline, Dartmouth Medical School and the report's principal investigator.

"We are acutely aware that the task of growing healthy kids is far bigger than the YMCA or any other single group," said Kenneth L. Gladish, Ph.D., national executive director, YMCA of the USA. "We are deeply grateful to the members of the Commission and other scholars for the years of painstaking research that, synthesized in this report, now powerfully illuminates the challenge ahead. We are also inspired by the work and words of the many community, religious, government and business leaders who have been, and continue to be, champions for increased investment in supporting America's kids and families."

"For the first time a diverse group of prominent children's doctors and researchers is calling for paying considerably more attention to the moral and spiritual needs of children," said David Blankenhorn, president, Institute for American Values.

Members of the Commission include:

Peter L. Benson, Search Institute; Elizabeth Berger, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; David Blankenhorn, Institute for American Values; Robert Coles, Harvard University; James P. Comer, Yale University; William J. Doherty, University of Minnesota; Kenneth L. Gladish, YMCA of the USA; David Gutmann, Northwestern University; Thomas R. Insel, Emory University; Leonard A. Jason, DePaul University; Byron Johnson, University of Pennsylvania; Robert Karen, Adelphi University; Kathleen Kovner Kline, Dartmouth Medical School (Principal Investigator); Susan Linn, Harvard Medical School; Arthur C. Maerlender, Jr., Dartmouth Medical School (Co-Investigator); Lisa Miller, Columbia University; Andrew Newberg, University of Pennsylvania; Stephanie Newberg, Pennsylvania Council for Relationships; Stephen G. Post, Case Western Reserve University; Alvin F. Poussaint, Harvard Medical School; Michael Resnick, University of Minnesota; Allan N. Schore, UCLA School of Medicine; Christian Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Linda Spear, Binghamton University; Bill Stanczykiewicz, Indiana Youth Institute; Barbara Stilwell, Indiana University School of Medicine; Stephen J. Suomi, National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, NIH, DHHS; Julie Thomas, Youngstown State University; Paul C. Vitz, New York University; Judith Wallerstein, Center for the Family in Transition; W. Bradford Wilcox, University of Virginia; Larry J. Young, Emory University



Source of News Release:

YMCA of the USA


Post a Comment -------View Comments

Submit an Opinion - Letter

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska