Video Tapes Review - The Origins of Love and Violence, $12.50 and Second Video, $19.95 by James W. Prescott, Ph.D. 2001

Available at Touch the Future

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Dr. James W. Prescott has devoted his professional life to being an infant and child advocate. He joined the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH and established and directed the Developmental Behavioral Biology Program from 1966-1980 that studied the biological and social consequences (types) of early nurturing and has learned what types of environment make for a violent or peaceful society.

Prescott has concluded that mother nurturing, and affectional bonding or the lack of it, explains the primary origins of both peaceful-egalitarian or authoritarian-violent cultures. In the late 1970s, the NICHD unlawfully terminated his 17 year federal career, as a scientist administrator by the NICHD, NIH for opposing the NICHD abandonment of its agency responsibility to support research on the causes and consequences of violence against children. Dr. Prescott is a developmental neuropsychologist and a cross cultural psychologist with his doctorate in psychology from McGill University.

He has made available two videos that document impaired brain development and the emotional-behavioral disorders that result from failed bonding in the mother-infant/child relationship that include depression and violence. The first, entitled, The Origins of Love and Violence provides a 13 minute introduction to the central thesis that the mother-infant/child relationship is the essential factor for whether a child becomes loving or violent. Failure of mother-love and bonding results in both a failure to thrive and produces depressed, hostile and angry children who later become vengeful and violent adults

Enormous amounts of primate research have proven that a failure in bonding causes the brain to develop abnormally, both anatomically and neuro-chemically. These effects can be observed as early as infancy as depressed infants and young children.

Prescott began his work in the 1960s. His and other scientists' laboratory experiments have proven time and time again that enriched sensory stimulation is essential for early brain development. Using mother deprived monkeys as models for research in child development, he covers the contributions made in the field of primate study by many scientists, particularly the Harlows and Mason and Berkson. He says that human breast milk is important as it contains food needed for proper brain development and teaches us that we must understand mothers as nurturant beings, for both food and for meeting early emotional needs through breastfeeding and baby-carrying.

However, I was surprised that Dr. Prescott blames society rather than particular mothers for inadequate child rearing. I believe a mother who was raised with love will automatically give love to her child regardless of the typical behavior of the society in which she is a member. In primal therapy, in our unguided regressive relivings, we do not rail against society in general, but against the specific person not meeting our essential needs. Dr. Prescott affirms that it is the failure of society to support mother being nurturing mothers that is the primary factor and gives validity to the African proverb that "it takes an entire village to raise a child."

These videos allow us to view the behavioral results of infant monkeys separated from their mothers. These maternally deprived young monkeys could view other monkeys through the bars of their cages but could not have physical contact with them.

The study by Drs. Mason and Berkson of an artificial swinging surrogate mother that was constructed out of cloth was compared to one which did not move. The movable cloth surrogate mother prevented the development of the emotional-social and behavioral pathologies associated with separation or failed bonding in the mother-infant relationship. Lack of physical contact with other monkeys had a detrimental emotional effect on the physically isolated young monkeys.

Touch and movements are very important in the development of not only primates, but of all mammals. Humans are the only mammals who have separation from their birthing mothers and who refuse to breastfeed their infants, which has disastrous consequences for the infant/child, youth and adult.

Video footage from German institutions shows the results of disrupted infant/mother relationships and the therapeutic effects of restored mother love. Years ago René Spitz noticed the retarded development of such institutionalized children. John Bowley also found that early separation resulted in a character disorder with resultant lack of feelings or concern for anyone.

Taped scenes of Dr. Prescott at the Hazelton Laboratories in Falls Church, Virginia, show him comparing normal monkeys raised by their mothers with mother-deprived monkeys. Mother-reared baby monkeys show normal interaction when they are put together in cages. Playing and touching each other occurs continuously. Separation from each other is resisted. Touch even takes place between the bars of the cage when the monkeys are in contiguous cages.

Scenes are also shown of monkeys being raised alone, in isolation, when they could view but not touch each other. When these same monkeys are placed together in the same cage they are very indifferent and fearful and do not touch one another. They become stressed when they are touched by their cage-mate or by the human experimenters. When they are together they are driven to attack each other.

When children are reared in isolation they suffer from fear and anger and often become violent. The rocking and head banging behavior of isolated baby monkeys is also found in touch-deprived human infants and children throughout the world.

The first video tape ends with these words:

"If we are to create a non-violent world where respect and kindness replace fear and hatred, we must begin with how we treat each other at the beginning of life. For that is where our deepest patterns are set. From these roots grow fear and alienation or love and trust."
-- Suzanne Arms, Birthing the Future.

*    *    * 

The second video tape contains four video documentaries and includes the Time-Life documentary Rock-A-Bye Baby which I remember viewing on public television a number of years ago. This film documentary was premiered at the 1970 White House Conference on Children. This work examines precisely what it is that fixes the temperament and personality of a person during its earliest years.

The first social exchange and relationship is the most important one we will ever have. What is the nature of that early relationship that provides us an answer? Scientists have examined the early development of lower primates to find the answer since both species share important genes and behaviors.

Harry Harlow demonstrated that baby monkeys preferred a cloth surrogate mother without bottle milk to a wire surrogate mother with bottled milk. The infant monkeys preferred the touch and contact of the cloth "doll mothers" without food to the wire surrogate mothers with food. The video shows Dr. Prescott as well as Dr. Harlow conducting during these experiments.

Incubators are harmful to babies because they are separated from their mothers and do not provide gentle touch and movement. Dr. Neal demonstrated that a rocking incubator has accelerated the neurobehavioral development of these rocked premature infants.

In another video documentary, the life of the Boro tribe in the Amazon basin is shown. There is a great deal of cuddling and touch and the narrator of the video states that such loving cuddling and touch are the keys to a non-violent society.

Dr. Prescott has made studies of maternal-infant bonding in forty-nine primitive cultures and their relationship to youth sexual expression or punishment, which are highly correlated with violence. The single measure of mother-infant bonding could predict the peaceful or violent character of 80% of these cultures. The exception could be accounted for by whether youth sexual expression was permitted or punished.

Those who have not enjoyed touch or bonding with mother during their early life cannot identify with the pleasure of sex unless it has a violent undercurrent. Such touch deprived individuals and unbonded individuals are the pool from whence is drawn serial rapists and other psychopaths. Many of the inadequate mothers had insensitive and brutal mothers (and fathers) themselves.

The second video tape also includes various television interviews that Dr. Prescott has had on national television over the years. These include a 11 minutes segment from Canadian Television in Toronto as well as a Connie Chung interview entitled, Happy Babies. The final segment is entitled The Brain In Bonding: Pleasure and Violence. This interview is with Jack Perkins of LA 4 News. Each interview reinforces the thesis that the sources of violence and psychopathology and well as love and compassion is learned from the child's early upbringing in the home.

A number of scientific papers can be found at the following websites:

An article by Dr. Prescott on the Primal Psychotherapy Page may be read at:
The Increasing Psychiatric Disability of Children: Why?

Read Dr. Prescott's great movie review of AI (Artificial Intelligence) on this website

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