Train Up a Brain, a Child

Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensable virtue inherent in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded, trust impaired. –Erik Erikson

Brain 2


Parent’s role in the Child/Parent  Relationship

At birth, generally speaking, children are born reaching out and asking for needs to be fulfilled.  From birth, the child is given safety, love, care, and acceptance.  As a result, the child is taught by the parents to depend on them. They are born this way; the child knows nothing else. It is how the child development begins. However, if this fulfillment of need changes, the child is left confused, yet still in need.  The child begins to look for fulfillment by other means because the parents have ceased to provide it or have ceased to see the purpose in it.  This prepares the way for gang activity and addiction.

Nora Volkow, Director of The National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated that like many other diseases, vulnerability to addiction is influenced by multiple factors including the contributions of environmental and genetic risk factors and these factors may also vary during the different life stages.  She further states that adolescence is the period when addiction typically takes hold because their brains are undergoing development in the areas that contribute to decision-making, judgment, and risk-taking and that this can lead to experimenting with drugs. Addiction is likely to occur because their brains are still developing, and because their brains are more sensitive to drugs and the changes created in the brain because of the drugs.

Brain 1


On a televised program entitled Origins of Addiction which dealt with addiction and brain correlation, Stan Rhodes interviewed Dr Ruben Baler and Dr Steven Grant:

Dr Ruben Baler is a Health Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Biology. He has written and lectured on drug addiction, has performed research for the National Institute for Mental Health, and he is part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Dr Steven Grant is the chief of the Clinical Neuroscience Branch for NIDA and holds a Ph.D. in Biological Psychology. He received his postdoctoral training in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale, and became a Senior Staff Fellow in the Neuroimaging and Drug Action Section of the NIDA Intramural Research Program.

It was expressed on that program that there has been break through research on drug addiction and the brain, yet it is still very difficult for society to view drug addiction as a disease. When interviewed by Stan Rhodes concerning drug addiction, Dr Baler and Dr Grant conveyed that it is the most stigmatized condition today and that addicts are not people with bad morals or character flaws.  They are people that have a disease that affects the part of the brain that evaluates risks and what’s appropriate in society. There is a brain failure.  They also noted that society has failed many addicts by not diagnosing them when they have displayed pre-abuse markers. Those such as a lack of self-control.  They stated that these markers can be seen in kids even as early as 3-5 yrs old. It is a type of turning “on and off” of switches in gene activity and brain development, Epigenetics. During brain development, the Epigenetic process allows experience to influence and impact both health and behavior.


Brain 3Erik H. Erikson, a psychologist that had a private practice in child psychoanalysis and whose observations of children also helped set the stage for further research, stated that each individual passes through eight developmental stages.  If the person copes with a particular crisis in a maladaptive manner, the outcome will be more struggles with that issue later in life.

              “Erikson’s (1959) theory of stages of psychosocial development”  

psychosocial-stages                                http://www


Crises are seen as decisive turning points of increased vulnerability Or strength and capability to function effectively.  The strengths and capabilities developed through successful resolution of a crisis at any given stage can be affected by later events. In this, there are both hope (that the vulnerability can be overcome) and danger (that the strength developed can be destroyed).

In order to thrive, during the stages of a growing brain and child’s life, the child must have the love, nurturance, safety, psychological, belonging, and self esteem needs met. Psychology Today stated in their “Compassion Matters, how to save a life” document that parents who are loving aim to meet their children’s needs; parents who are emotionally hungry use their children to get their own needs met. And they quote Robert Firestone as saying: “Parents who are emotionally hungry act compulsively in relation to their children in much the same manner as an addict. Their exaggerated attention and involvement have an ongoing negative impact on the child’s development.”  They leave the child impoverished, anxiously attached, and hurting.

As parents and as a society We can  help a child or an addict overcome and thrive and We can help stop the struggle, help train the brain, train the child!



* Psychology Today. Compassion Matters, how to save a life.

Why Are Some People More Vulnerable Than Others?  The Essence of Drug Addiction, By Nora Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse