September 10, 2003
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:
"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: