“An incalculable amount of tension and useless effort would be spared in this world if we realized that cooperation and love can never be won by force.” - Alfred Adler, psychologist
Positive parenting is warm and nurturing and focuses on developing a strong, positive bond between parent and child. Rather than using strict discipline to punish unwanted behaviour, positive parenting teaches children to understand the process of making good decisions, builds self-confidence and encourages open communication.
What are the Impacts of Positive Parenting?
The long-term effects of raising children with positive parenting have been noted in a number of studies (better grades, higher self-esteem, and fewer mental health problems, for example). A 2015 study published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development, found that children raised with negative parenting was related to “higher adolescent anxiety, depression, and aggression and lower self-esteem, and school satisfaction.” Other studies are digging deeper into what’s going on under the surface.
Can a Child Affect Parenting Strategies?
In a recent article that appeared in Behavior Genetics, researchers observed that children who demonstrate more affectionate behaviours are more likely to receive positive parenting, as do those with higher cognitive ability. What isn’t clear is whether children parented in this way become more affectionate as a result or whether it’s easier for parents to respond more positively when dealing with a child with these qualities.
The researchers also observed that girls were more likely than boys to be positively parented, perhaps because of developmental differences that give girls the early advantage in cognitive development. Perhaps early socialization encourages girls to be more emotionally expressive and this, in turn, has an impact on a parent’s willingness to interact positively with the child.
Brain Changes and Positive Parenting
Other researchers have focussed on the underlying neurophysiology of adolescent brains. A 2013 study published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience looked at the relationship between positive parenting and changes in different brain structures in adolescents. Researchers found changes in the right amygdala and right anterior cingulate (in males only) as well as in the the orbitofrontal cortices and suggest that these changes may relate to mental disorders that emerge during adolescence.
Because positive life outcomes are related to positive childhood experiences, researchers wanted to understand the neurological underpinnings that might relate to positive behavioural outcomes. It’s only relatively recently that we’ve begun to understand just how much neurological development and change happens during the teen years. It’s now believed that the brain undergoes huge changes in adolescence, eclipsed only by the amount of change that occurs in infancy.
The implications are obvious. If the way we parent is related to structural changes in the brain, then the way we parent our teenagers may literally shape their brains and establish traits that will impact them through the rest of their lives. Some research points to the importance of thickening of the cortex during adolescence in terms of later cognitive and emotional functioning. One finding suggests that “… low levels of positive maternal behaviors during conflictual interactions to prospectively predict the onset of depressive disorders during adolescence.”
While we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding exactly how parenting strategies influence brain development and impact later behaviour and mental health outcomes, there is mounting evidence that positive parenting strategies are effective in the short term but also have long-term impacts.
Positive Parenting Strategies for Parents
Given the many positive outcomes associated with non-coercive parenting, it makes sense for parents of children of all ages to integrate positive parenting strategies whenever possible. Time taken now to discuss and explain will pay off later in higher self esteem, better mental health, and positive life outcomes.
Dr. Syras Derksen
Concetta, et al. (2015). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 57, Issue 7, July.
Whittle, Sarah, et al (2013). Positive parenting predicts the development of adolescent brain structure: a longitudinal study. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Volume 8, April 2014.
Woodward, K.E., et al. (2018). Correlates of positive parenting behaviors. Behavior Genetics, July 2018, Volume 48, Issue 4.
Trying to navigate a relationship with a narcissist can be a difficult feat. While narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is rare, affecting less than 1% of the general population, most people demonstrate narcissistic tendencies over time.
Narcissism is marked by many traits including a lack of empathy, grandiose thoughts and behaviors, entitlement, and a strong need for validation. These traits make healthy communication and negotiation a challenge, which can lead to frustration and eventually ruin relationships. One of the major characteristics of a narcissistic negotiator is the tendency for them to overestimate the power of their position and underestimate the power of yours. This can lead to continued misunderstanding and escalation in conflict.
Admiration Vs. Rivalry
Both admiration and rivalry can play a part in how narcissists interact. Both of these traits contribute to the maintenance of a grandiose self-image. It has been shown that narcissistic traits are great for building relationships in the short-term, but are disastrous in the long-term.
A research project in 2017 found was conducted to look at the admiration behaviour vs. rivalry behaviour in narcissists. This admiration was defined as the promotion of positivity in the person's self-view. Rivalry was the tendency to protect their self-image by being negative towards others. They found that it was tendency towards needing admiration that was what helped narcissists build relationships in the short-term. However, it was the tendency towards rivalry that cause relationships to break-apart over the long-term.
It is likely that this dynamic also occurs in negotiating. In the short-term relationships can flourish, but it would be expected that negotiations would also elicit strong rivalry tendencies that could produce negative acrimonious interactions. This fluctuation between these two sides could also be disorienting for the participants and observers.
What Should You Do?
When dealing with someone who tends to show narcissistic characteristics, it is important to make sure you are able to protect your self-esteem and your feelings. If you have a relationship with someone with NPD or with someone who often shows narcissistic traits, here are a few communication tips to keep in mind:
While you can neither control nor change the actions and thought patterns of someone who behaves narcissistically, remember that you are in control of your own actions and feelings. If you feel a conversation is leading to an unproductive argument or spiraling out of control, take a step back and think about how you can stay in control of the situation. Do your best to prevent frustration on your end from negatively influencing the way you communicate with the other person. Avoid building a negative case against them in your mind or lashing out in anger by taking control of your own thoughts and actions.
Avoid Unhealthy Conversation
You might be tempted to feel negatively about yourself when communicating with a narcissist. A narcissist might display little to no empathy for your feelings or try to blame you for a conflict. While it is frustrating to solve an issue with someone who refuses to take responsibility for his or her own actions, it is important for you to remember the big picture: you are in charge of your feelings, and you do not have to give this person power over your sense of self.
When negotiating with a narcissist begins to seem one-sided or the other person stops listening and is no longer interested in a healthy dialogue, you can stop the discussion. Communicate your feelings with the other person and express that you would prefer to continue the discussion at a later time when he or she is ready to listen to and respect your feelings. Even though a narcissist might feel entitled to your time, energy, and praise, they are just one person, and you do not have to give them every single thing they want just because they demand it from you. You do not have to sacrifice your self-esteem and energy to communicate with a narcissist.
Become Aware of Narcissistic Tendencies
As you spend time with a person with NPD or narcissistic tendencies, be sure to make note of the character traits they exhibit that might lead to unhealthy communication between the two of you. By becoming aware of these traits, you know when to stop a potentially unproductive conversation or disagreement. This will also give you a starting place for learning how to develop strategies to deal with these behaviors effectively. If you cannot avoid dealing with a narcissist on a regular basis, you should practice self-care by preparing yourself to handle the different character strengths that they might misuse.
Separate the Behavior from the Person
A trademark characteristic of narcissists is the need to be validated. Effective communication will not happen if you label the other individual based on their actions. When you become aware of their narcissistic behaviors and you want to communicate your feelings, you need to make sure you separate these behaviors from the person. Use “I” statements to express your feelings instead of placing blame that might make them feel attacked or invalidated. For instance, instead of saying, “You’re selfish, and you only care about yourself” you could say, “I do not feel cared for when you do this.” Doing this provides the space for the other person to listen and change, and it will help them pinpoint an area where they need to improve.
For helpful strategies that can make it easier for you to identify narcissistic behaviors that you demonstrate or that are exhibited by somebody close to you, visit www.oakvillewellnesscenter.com.
Leahy, R. (2014). Impediments and strategies in negotiating: A cognitive therapy model. Handbook of International Negotiating.
Wurst, S. N., Gerlach, T. M., Dufner, M., et al. (2017). Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 280-306.
If you have been keeping up with the news, you have probably heard about the miraculous Thailand cave rescue that happened this past July. When twelve boys and their football coach explored a cave underneath a mountain in Thailand, they had no idea that they would end up trapped there for two weeks with almost no chance of being found alive.
Even when they were discovered, rising flood water, low air levels, and limited resources gave Thai Navy Seals leader Rear Adm Arpakorn Yuukongkaew “little hope” that the boys would still be alive when he started the rescue mission. Although the boys and their coach have been out of the cave for more than a week, their work toward recovery is just beginning. These boys are at a high risk of struggling with mental health disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of this traumatic event and rescue.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that some people are diagnosed with after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Common symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, and physiological reactions to anything that triggers memories of the traumatic event. If left untreated, PTSD can lead to depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or actions.
While the boys involved in the Thailand cave rescue will receive mental health attention for any possible PTSD symptoms, many people in the United States overlook potential symptoms of PTSD that they encounter in their daily lives. About 8% of the American population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. While it is difficult to predict who will develop PTSD, there are many risk factors that can indicate someone is more likely to produce PTSD symptoms. If you have experienced any of the following, it is important that you are aware that you are at an increased risk of developing PTSD:
The way that people are treated or the way they view their trauma can have a significant impact on their trauma symptoms. Conflicts are viewed differently in terms of their justification and brutality. This can cause veterans to be treated differently when they return and even without direct comments, can cause veterans to view the experience differently.
This effects of these factors was recently validated. A 2017 study looked at the effect of trauma-related guilt and trauma-related shaming on US veterans after combat. They found that these two factors accounted for 46% of the variance in the factors contributing to the development of PTSD. In other words, these two factors were very significant in predicting whether someone would develop PTSD after experiencing a trauma. The trauma-related shame aspect was significantly more important than the trauma-related guilt.
Childhood Abuse or Neglect
Childhood abuse and neglect significantly increases a person’s chance of experiencing PTSD. Physical, emotional, and medical neglect are all types of trauma that predispose victims to PTSD. When a child’s caretaker cannot or refuses to provide their basic needs, children are negatively impacted. An estimated 15% of girls and 6% of boys who have experienced childhood trauma have PTSD. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) like physical and sexual abuse or neglect are major indicators that psychologists use to try and predict a person’s likelihood of developing PTSD or other mental health disorders.
In 2014 a study was completed looking at the relationship between childhood trauma and adult PTSD through intimate partner violence. They found that the childhood trauma did affect participants emotional function, and this then predicted greater levels of PTSD. They also found that the childhood trauma made interpersonal violence more likely. This suggested a dual pathway for the impact of childhood trauma on later PTSD symptoms, through impaired emotional functioning and by making interpersonal violence more likely.
People who have experienced trauma over a long period of time are at risk of suffering from what some psychologists call Complex PTSD. Chronic trauma like long-term physical or sexual abuse, long-term domestic violence, or long-term childhood exploitation can lead to dissociation, suicidal thoughts and actions, and other symptoms in addition to those of PTSD. People who have survived chronic trauma have a greater chance of developing PTSD or even Complex PTSD.
People who have experienced or witnessed severe traumatic events are at a greater risk of suffering from PTSD. Examples of severe trauma include violent physical or sexual assaults, kidnapping, natural disasters, and catastrophic events. People who experience rape have a 49% risk, witnesses to shootings and stabbings have a 15% risk, and those who have lived through a natural disaster have a 3% risk of developing PTSD as a result of the event.
History of Mental Illness
If you or members of your family have a history of mental illness or mental health concerns, you have a greater likelihood of producing PTSD symptoms. Approximately 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD, and that number is projected to increase. It is important that you know your family’s history of mental illness as it influences your probability of developing PTSD.
Situations that Increase Your Risk of Harm
Working in environments where your safety is in jeopardy increases your chance of developing symptoms of PTSD. Such jobs include EMTs and other first responders, police officers, or military personnel. 20% of soldiers deployed in the past six years and an estimated 18% of police officers have PTSD. These careers have the highest rates of post-traumatic stress disorder.
History of Alcohol, Drug, or Substance Abuse
Substance abuse and PTSD are closely related. More than 50% of people with PTSD struggle with addiction and vice versa. Sometimes drugs and alcohol are used to cope with symptoms that could indicate a person has PTSD, like depression or anxiety. Abusing drugs, alcohol, and other substances can also drastically increase the severity of PTSD symptoms.
Poor Emotional Support
People with a limited or non-existent emotional support system are more likely to struggle with PTSD when they experience traumatic events. If you have few friends or family members to talk to or lean on in times of crisis, you are at a greater risk for developing PTSD.
Dr. Syras Derksen
Cunningham et. al. (2017). A relative weights comparison of trauma-related shame and guilt as predictors of DSM-5 posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity among US veterans and military members. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 163-176.
Lilly, M. M., London, M. J., & Bridgett, D. J. (2014). Using SEM to examine emotion regulation and revictimization in predicting PTSD symptoms among childhood abuse survivors. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6(6), 644-651.
Child abuse is a harrowing topic of discussion. While childhood is meant to be an oasis of happiness in the lifespan, the actions of others can sometimes shatter this precious time.
Dealing with the aftermath of child abuse is difficult for both the individual and their families and requires early and ongoing intervention.
In this article we will discuss the effects of child abuse and the various treatments that are recommended in order to piece things back together.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY "CHILD ABUSE?"
Child abuse is often divided into four main categories:
Neglect is when the child suffers harm due to being denied something by a caregiver. This may be food, clothing, warmth, supervision etc. Neglect normally occurs over a period of time and will be apparent in a variety of ways. Sometimes neglect will be materially obvious from poor clothing or hygiene. Other times it may manifest itself in other ways; for example, if a child injures themselves due to lack of supervision.
Emotional abuse is normally seen in the relationship between child and parent/caregiver as opposed to a set pattern of events. Emotional abuse does not refer to anything physical but refers to a range of behaviours exhibited by the caregiver that prevent the child from obtaining his or her emotional need for affection, safety and security amongst others.
Examples include excessive criticism, under or over protection, emotional unavailability and unrealistic expectations. Emotional abuse may manifest itself many ways including low self-esteem and unhappiness as well as unhealthy attachment styles.
Physical abuse involves any behaviour by the parent or caregiver that either directly or inadvertently results in physical harm. This form of abuse may refer to a once off incident or a repeated series of events. Physical abuse may involve severe physical punishment, pushing/shaking, induced illness and forced observation of violence.
Sexual abuse is when an adult uses a minor for their own sexual gratification. Examples of sexual abuse include, amongst others; sexual intercourse with a child, exposing sexual organs to a child, involving a child in masturbation and sexual exploitation. As children cannot give sexual consent any act between an individual over 18 and an individual under 17 is considered sexual abuse.
For a full description of sexual abuse types and ways to identify whether sexual abuse may be taking place, please follow this link. If you have concerns for a child then make sure to check out the information provided here.
What is the Impact of Abuse on Children?
Child abuse can have a major impact on any young person. Research indicates that the most serious mental health problems often arise from repeated trauma. This is because repeated trauma such as child abuse can often last years or even decades of a young person’s life, leaving them little time to experience the stability required for secure development.
In addition to this, some psychologists have made the case that the most severe psychological effects arise from relationships in which the child is dependent. The most obvious example if this is parent- child relationships. When this relationship is abused by a caregiver it deeply disrupts the ability of the child to form attachments, develop self-esteem and resilience.
It is hard to pinpoint the results of child abuse as it depends on the individual’s subjective experience, length of abuse and severity of abuse. Research has linked child abuse to a variety of emotional and behavioural issues however. These include:
Child abuse may also have long- term effects for the individual. Neglect as well as emotional, physical and sexual abuse in childhood have all been linked to range of poor long-term mental health outcomes. Depression, anxiety and addiction have all been linked to adverse experiences in childhood. In addition to this child abuse has also been linked to poorer physical outcomes. It is important to note however, that not all children who experience abuse will go on to develop such issues.
Interventions for Children who have Experienced Abuse
Treatment methods that have the most scientific backing are based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and focus on the abuse itself. CBT addresses the child’s thinking patterns, emotional responses and behavioural reactions to the abuse.
In particular the treatment will attempt to correct any misattribution of blame the child may demonstrate i.e. blaming themselves as opposed to the adults for the abuse. It is important not to force the child to directly discuss the abuse too quickly, but rather ease into a discussion of it. In this way, the child’s embarrassment and anxiety is reduced as much as possible.
The therapist may also teach the child skills to cope with the negative emotions arising from the abuse. These may include stress or anger management techniques. The child is taught to identify any triggers they may have for negative behaviours and ways to minimise the effect they have on them. The aim of such training is to improve social and interpersonal functioning as well as reducing daily distress.
The aftermath of abuse may be highly stressful and the child may be dealing with court proceedings or the social care system. In such cases the therapist may work with the child to teach relaxation techniques. This aims to reduce anxiety levels and to reduce any fear surrounding reminders of the abuse. For example some children may be afraid of being in smaller rooms or startle easily around adults.
The most important thing for any child is that they receive the support they need as quickly as possible. Suitable intervention in the aftermath of abuse has been shown to reduce the impact in the long- term. Childhood abuse is something no child should have to suffer and they deserve as much help and compassion as we can provide.
Afifi, T. O., MacMillan, H. L., Boyle, M., Cheung, K., Taillieu, T., Turner, S., & Sareen, J. (2016). Child abuse and physical health in adulthood. Health reports, 27(3), 10.
Nemeroff, C. B. (2016). Paradise lost: the neurobiological and clinical consequences of child abuse and neglect. Neuron, 89(5), 892-909.
Wamser-Nanney, R., Scheeringa, M. S., & Weems, C. F. (2016). Early treatment response in children and adolescents receiving CBT for trauma.Journal of pediatric psychology, 41(1), 128-137.