Posts Tagged ‘Child Neglect’

Permissiveness+Neglect+Abuse in Children= Bad Behavioral Contagion!

November 18, 2018

Permissiveness+Neglect+Abuse in Children= Bad Behavioral Contagion!

Many Americans look upon recent developments in American politics in amazement. You can easily hear: America is falling apart! What the hell is going on?! What is happening to us?! Things are spinning out-of-control!

The truth is that all of the social chaos and fearsome anarchy, as well the rise in popularity of Marxist ideals and socialism, have been growing under all of our noses for many years.

A plethora of variables have contributed to the mess that America is now. What we are experiencing is a close approximation to complex cause-effect sociocultural downward spiral that has badly damaged almost all of Western Civilization.

There are a great many influences that singularly and in combination, bring stress and harm to the quality of a population’s behavior patterns. Such influences can be war, petulance, disease, famine, and natural disasters, etc.. Changes of this sort are classified as distress. On the other hand, changes that are considered good, happy or “beneficial” can cause more moderate stress and are known as eustress. Each kind of stress requires adaptation, time and energy to accommodate. 

Then there is a host of stressful advantages and disadvantages that arrive in the form of what may be called “modernization”; namely technological advancements in the area’s of communication, transportation, entertainment, medicine, economics, other time-saving and work-saving advancements. These cultural changes tend to increase faith in mankind and diminishing faith in founding religions as well as other cultural, social, economic and political beliefs and preferences. Many also make life less effortful and rewards more easy to obtain. These cultural changes can contribute to a weakening of motivation and perseverance within a population. Consider the anti-motivational effects of welfare programs and true socialism, for example.

It is important to add, to the previous incomplete list of influences and stresses, the variable of increasing complexity in governments. Governments tend to grow in power, scope and complexity until they become ineffective and moribund. Defunct governments loose legitimacy and increase the likelihood of revolution.

Democratic societies appear to be particularly susceptible to his chain of events, their life-spans are thought by many to typically last around 200 years or so.

It appears, as with individuals, all changes within sociocultures, good or bad, are stressful because they require that a population, political, economic and social agencies change and adapt their behavior patterns in order to meet new challenges.

An important source of change, stressing the entire sociocultural system is what happens to families and the children that they rear. It is important to note that families both affect sociocultural evolution for good or bad and are, in turn, themselves affected by sociocultural evolution, for good or bad. 

This brings us to the matter of Behavioral Contagion, defined as: The spread of particular behavior patterns within a population via scientifically validated Biopsychosocial mechanisms.

It is important to note that changes within populations stress the various social and political agencies that serve them. I call this level of behavioral contagion; Higher Order Behavioral Contagion.

There are many avenues of behavioral contagion. Biological influences include physical damage due to physical injuries, diseases, or inherited characteristics. Social influences include the more’s, folkways, and other behavior patterns among the population to which individuals are exposed. Psychological influences include the mechanisms of behavior change found within the scientific realms of Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Conditioning and Learning Psychology, Behavior Analysis and Applied Behavior Analysis, etc. They also include the perceptual, emotional and belief changes that are influenced within each domain.

Now, please learn about one very important current avenue of bad behavioral contagion in America.

Permissiveness+Neglect+Abuse of Children= Bad Behavioral Contagion!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

Health Services Provider in Psychology

Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Indiana University South Bend





Saving America’s Children: A Response to Lisa and David

February 21, 2014

Saving America’s Children: A Response to Lisa and David

Lisa and David,

Thanks for airing your concerns  (underlined in quotes) about how to fairly deal with bad parents and other adults who are dependent upon the government, without harming their children. You ended your thoughtful analysis of this fiendishly complex and multifaceted problem with hope for an impossible outcome:

A.  “These questions plague me, as I continue to ponder the seemingly unsolvable dilemma”.

Sadly, in our Constitutional Republic such problems, can never be “solved”. Just as sadly, they cannot be solved by any of the other forms of government invented by humankind:  socialism, communism, or various permutations of the three.

Indeed, this is a sad, even tragic, perception of reality. But such is the condition of all living things. Variability along with genetic, behavioral,  and natural selection are always mediating life’s outcomes (for all living things) no matter what we do. Many of the outcomes are do not benefit the living things.

No cultural  design changes that I can imagine will ever totally eliminate human ignorance, incompetence, addiction, negligence, abuse, or the modeling and imitation effects of habitual laziness and incompetence.

Potential  ameliorating cultural adaptations are much like  military maneuvers to achieve an important objective. It can often be projected that one tactic will save significantly more lives than the other, so that is the one selected. Both involve tragedy, but one is less than the other.

So it must be with attempted cultural changes designed to achieve smaller bad outcomes and greater good outcomes. And so it is with children trapped in homes that destine so many of them to self-defeating and governmentally dependent lives. It is painful to see that our best attempts to help these children too frequently worsens their damaged condition.

No matter what we do, bad outcomes will occur, but some approaches will  be less bad and therefore will provide a greater good than the others.

B. 1. “Regarding welfare to families with children, the challenge is how to make food stamps, etc. contingent upon increasingly independent behaviors by parents without jeopardizing their children.”

     2.  “How do we balance our spiritual values of compassion while behaviorally correcting the entitlement mentality that is so rampant?     These two items are closely connected and so I address them as one.”

This matter is a veritable “Gordian’s Knot”.  Why should someone give-up welfare for a minimum pay scale that, after taxes, will not even pay for the costs of transportation, cloths, child-care, time, effort and grief that it takes to get to work?

In a well-functioning American Constitutional Republic, States and communities have much more freedom to experiment and try different solutions to various problems. It is from this variability that better solutions can be selected-out for imitation by other states and municipalities, and the worse ones can be rejected.

The answers to your intelligent and humanitarian concerns can be found in the changed contingencies of reinforcement (technically they are called metacontingencies) that former governor Tommy Thompson effected in Wisconsin.

Like Adam Smith’s  “invisible hands” of wonderfully effective free market economics and commerce, similar “invisible hands” go to work when state and local  brains are unshackled from Federal controls.

See the first article below.

See what Wisconsin’s Governor  Scott Walker continues to do in article 2, below

The third article below shows that these changed welfare contingencies are spreading to other locations, including Great Britain.

C. “Through ‘accident of their birth’, those kids are now dependent on their parents’ dependence on the government.  If laws change, requiring parents to find work and pass drug tests to keep their welfare (and their kids), what happens to their kids when parents fail their drug tests or don’t find employment in the government-determined time period?

I believe that a partial answer to your question can be found in the information I have presented for  item B. But what follows are some other considerations.

In America, the right of parents to choose how they wish to raise their children has historically been sacrosanct. In our public educational system and other areas of society, it appears that parental rights are being increasingly usurped. For example, children in California grade schools and beyond  can declare that they are transexuals and, upon request, be admitted to opposite sex bathrooms and changing rooms. LGBT (lezbian, Gay, Bi, and Transexual) clubs are increasingly in evidence in high schools. Teens can obtain birth control (Federal Title X and Medicaid Rules)  and have abortions without parental approval (i.e., The Judicial Bypass Option).

As a practicing psychologist, when I call the Department of Family and Children’s to report child abuse or neglect, I must go through a State office hotline. Someone at the State level will then make a decision as to whether the case will be assigned to a local child welfare worker for investigation, or not.

During the past several years, all of the half-dozen cases that I have reported have been investigated. All of these cases involved strong evidence of physical, sexual, and/or emotional  abuse that, in my opinion,  should have required suspension of unsupervised visitation to the offending parent.  Yet nothing happened and all cases were judged, “Unsubstantiated”.  In some cases, other serious independent reports accrued, and still no actions were taken. Rather, numerous warnings to the suspected parent were issued. The child was left in harms way.

All to often, when a child is removed from a neglectful or abusive family, a lengthy court case has droned on for years and grievous emotional damage to the child, or children, is more deeply ingrained.

A search of the internet will confirm the great American back-lash against the removal of children from parents care. The pendulum has swung in the direction of parental rights over children’s rights to protection.

I am left to wonder why this oddly conflicting school-based  erosion of parental rights vs. the massively strengthened rights of parents in society at-large is unfolding. There is no reason to conclude that various levels of society cannot illogically work in opposition to one another. On the other hand, when both of the apparent conflicting actions are harmful to the normal and independent growth and development of children it is easy to consider that such children will more easily justify a larger and more powerful government; which is antithetical to a viable socioculture.

My thoughts on this matter may seem tangential to this discussion, but nothing that weakens the rights of children to be protected form a bizarre, conflicted and damaging social/political system is tangential.

In today’s climate only the most egregiously negligent and/or neglectful, abusive actions by parents (starvation, abandonment, bloody wounds, broken bones, damaged genitalia, etc.) are likely to result in the removal of children from their parents homes.

So, back to the question about children being taken from the homes of those who use drugs or are unemployed.

As always such matters must be decided by the professionals (police, child Protective Services, and the Courts involved). In my over 30 years of experience as a thereapist, the error has increasingly been on the side of the rights of parents in these cases.

I there for do not believe that children are likely to be taken from parents because they simply did not get a job. Whether children should be taken from parents who use drugs, or not, depends upon what drugs they are using, when and how they are using, to what degree they are impaired by their usage. Again, these decisions will need to be made on the basis of  professional  about levels of resulting neglect, abuse and danger to the child. Again, they are normally made with a high regard to parental rights.

In my view there needs to be a shift more in the direction of protecting the normal  developmental needs of children and their rights not to suffer psychologically crippling harm as a result of adult abuse and neglect.

What are the rights of children? Having taught college courses in Child Development and Learning for many years, I did my best to identify what children need to have their best chance to grow to be reasonably well-adjusted, responsible and productive adults. I included the following list and explanations of these child rights in a book that I wrote and published in 1978, entitled, Rewarding Childhood/ Rewarding Parenthood: Natural Child Rearing from Birth Through First Grade. The book was published by J. P. Tarcher and St Martin’s Press.


1. The Right to Secure and Loving Human Relationships. It is critically important that infants and young children experience a close, loving relationship with parents or, if need be, good parental substitutes. Someone must be present to attend to the infant’s needs in a gentle, reliable way: to hold, cuddle, stimulate through speech and play, and to protect the child from physical harm. Research shows that when these forms of early love an security are missing, infants cry more, smile less, vocalize less, are less attentive, and, in some cases, even come to reject physical  closeness with human beings. It is from close relationships that parents gain their tremendous power to teach and children gain their equally tremendous desire to learn.

2. The Right to Proper Nutrition, Healthful and Safe Living Conditions, Preventive and Curative Medical Care. The failure or parents, guardians and society to insure all of these conditions is negligent and unconscionable.

3. The Right to Be Taught All Essential Skills in an Effective and Humane Way. Th infant or young child is in no position to predict the kinds of skills which will be needed for future success and happiness in life. Effective parents must recognize what these skills are and then help their children to learn them. Identifying and teaching these is crucial to normal and healthy development.

4. The Right to Humane and Nonabusive Discipline. Parents are responsible for teaching their children to follow a great many rules for self-conduct, while not unnecessarily restricting their personal freedom to develop as a unique human being. Teaching rules need not always involve punishment. Moderate and humane forms of punishment may be needed occasionally, they should never be unnecessarily harsh and should never be over- used.

5. The Right to Learn Sound Values and Moral Behavior. Parents and teachers must give careful attention to identifying, demonstrating, and teaching the basic values and morals which are likely to lead children to sensitive, respectful, and law-abiding behavior toward people, other living things, the environment, and the property of others.

6. The Right to Develop as an Independent and Unique Individual. One of the greatest challenges of parenting is to teach a multitude of basic skills while still allowing children the freedom to develop as individuals. Each infant born into this world is unique. Parents must preserve and strengthen the positive aspects of this individuality as they teach.

7. The Right to be Protected from Abusive, Neglectful, and Grossly Irresponsible Parents, Care-Takers and Teachers and by all Agents and Agencies of Society. Society must be prepared to intervene to teach parents appropriate parenting skills if they are harming their children through their ignorance, neglect, or abuse. Children must be swiftly removed to a safe environment and provided loving skilled care until they can be reunited with parents. In this, the rights of children must always take precedence over those of the parents. If parents are unable to meet standards for loving, humane and skillful care of their children; the children should be raised in a healthful environment by those who can.

8. The Right to be Protected from Abusive, Violent and Unlawful  Influences of Peers. The responsibility to afford these protections fall to parents, family members, teachers and all agents and agencies of society.


D. 1.  “Those kids would go to families (who may also be on welfare), or government funded foster-care. Or parents may have parental rights terminated.  These consequences would be administered through the courts and by other government agencies, thereby increasing the power of the government.  It’s like falling through to deeper and deeper layers of safety-nets in the society with no apparent rock-bottom.”

      2. “How can this catch-22 predicament be resolved?  At a time when we want to reduce government as our overlords?”

I am no expert in managing the government and its increasing size, scope and intrusion into our lives. So I will turn to someone who I have come to believe is an expert.

I can think of no better way to reduce the size and scope of government than though the ways advocated by Mark Levin. I strongly recommend that you read his book, “The Liberty Amendments”.

For a quick synopsis of his book, see my blog showcasing a video of Levin presenting and defending his ideas.

I believe that protecting children from harm at the hands of neglectful, abusive, and hopelessly incompetent parents is all of our business, but it is our representative government that must retain a large role in this.  It does not have to do this directly, however. I think it would be best, much better, if it did not.

The government should, can and does set standards of humane care, accreditation, training requirements, and quality control of services in foster homes, group homes, and institutions for children who must be taken from their families for various intervals of time.

I recommend that all such care settings be privatized and quality control fall to our representative governments.

Please see the following for a strong exemplar of one class of ways in which such data-based interventions can occur:

These are some of my thoughts on potential partial solutions to these great  problems that damage the viability of our American socioculture. I am sure that they can be improved upon and must become one of America’s most urgent priorities.

VTM, 2/120/14

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