Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Dunedin Study.

This study is being carried out on 1000 people from Dunedin New Zealand. Researchers have followed these people since birth, right up to the present. What they have found is that the child's ability to engage in self-control or not is key to the future of that child. In terms of length on social assistance, substance abuse, criminality and relationship instability, a direct correlation has been shown. This means most social problems are the actions of a minority of the population. Some 10% of criminals are responsible for 50% of crime, and 5% of men do 60% of all violent crimes.

The Dunedin Study has examined the old nature-nurture debate and found that both are involved. The combination of a low amount of the MAOA gene with an abusive childhood gives rise to highly impulsive and or violent behaviour. Since some 30% of the population have the MAOA gene, yet only a minority of these are violent, abuse is the key factor. On the other hand this explains why so many victims of abuse do not become criminal or addicts. They have a high amount of MAOA.

Self-control can be taught to at risk children if intervention happens early enough.

Another gene-abuse combination involves the low amount of 5-HTT. Those with the low form combined with abuse will come apart emotionally under stress. Other people, with the low amount and no abuse or a high amount plus abuse will ride through a serious crisis. This explains why some people are destroyed by a personal tragedy, such as a death, breakup of marriage etc., while others are sad but deal with it.

As a check similar tests were done on rhesus monkeys, and the results were the same as with humans.

Another finding is that socially isolated children, abused children or those from poverty will be much more likely to have physical health problems later in life. This is true even if the person becomes wealthy and successful as an adult. The physical situation for such children as adults is as though they smoked 15 cigarettes a day and abused alcohol. They are 10X more likely to be hospitalized than others. The stresses of growing up poor and/or abused leads to inflammation, undermining the immune system, eventually causing cardiovascular disease.

What conclusions can be drawn from this study? In practical terms, dealing with poverty and child abuse must be a major priority. From a simple monetary aspect, billions can be saved by addressing these issues. (Violent criminals cost New Zealand about $3 billion a year. Clinical depression costs the USA $19 billion a year.) As well, children at risk must be taught the skills that allow them the level of emotional control that will prevent them from involvement in harmful lifestyles. There are certain persons who are inherently dangerous and that they should not be free to wander among us – not as a punishment, but as protection. In terms of ethics, we must abandon such notions as "Well, I was abused by I didn't become a..." or "they chose to be that way" and replace it with Phil Ochs, "There but for fortune, go you or I" .


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