Ghosts from the Nursery : Tracing the Roots of Violence

The Atlantic Monthly Press

Robin Karr-Morse & Meredith S. Wiley / Paperback


Karr-Morse, a family therapist, and Wiley, chief of staff to the Oregon Speaker of the House, designed that state's Children's Care Team. They emphasize here the importance of experiences absorbed during the fetal stage and in the first two years of infancy for brain development. Drawing on new research studies, they show that activities by expectant mothers such as heavy drinking, drug use and an inadequate diet have a strong adverse effect on fetal neurological development. After birth, parental neglect and physical abuse may combine with prenatal trauma to further impair brain development and predispose a child toward violent behavior. Along with densely detailed research, the authors present case studies of violent children, focusing on Jeffrey, who has been on death row for committing a vicious murder at 16. Jeffrey describes a childhood marked by depressed, violent and neglectful parents. According to Wiley and Karr-Morse, unless society makes a commitment to providing nurturing care for all infants, the number of violent children will increase. This is a deeply disturbing wake-up call.