‘Is misused neuroscience defining early years and child protection policy?’ Zoe Williams, Guardian 26 April 2014

Zoe Williams article: ‘Is misused neuroscience defining early years and child protection policy?‘ in The Guardian 26 April 2014.

Child undergoing MRI brain scan

We are now used to seeing images of areas of the brain ‘lighting up’ on an MRI ­scanner – but what if MRI scans tell us much less than we think?

Excerpts:

Neuroscience is huge in early years policy. This week, in what’s been characterised as the largest shake-up of family law in a generation, the 26-week time limit for adoption proceedings has come into force, much of it justified by the now-or-never urgency of this set of beliefs, that the first three years (or sometimes first 18 months) hardwire a baby’s brain, either give it or deny it the capacity for a full life. This is the engine of what is known as the First Three Years movement, which has transfixed politicians from across the spectrum. Allen and Duncan Smith’s report opened with an illustration of the “normal child’s” large brain and the shrivelled, walnut brain of the neglected child.”

“The child protection changes are the most extreme end of the policy shaped by neurosciences, but it’s visible across all early-years policy; it can justify the removal of children who have been exposed to domestic violence or even children who may be hypothetically exposed, the mother having been abused before.”

“Here’s the thing: what if it’s over-baked? What if the claims made for neuroscience are so extreme that most neuroscientists would disown them? What if the constant references to “brain scans of neglected children” actually just meant one brain scan, from one highly contested study?”

Read complete article

 

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