Bad to the bone

Mark Dadds says some children literally cannot see the love in their mother’s eyes. Professor Dadds, a parenting expert from the University of New South Wales, has just published results of his work in the British Journal of Psychiatry and the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology that suggest the ability to make eye contact is vital in learning how to love other people.

For the past five years, he has been working with children referred to his Sydney clinic for sustained rages, continual aggression, calculated violence and, occasionally, cruelty to animals.

These are children with some of the worst behavioural problems, who score highly for callous, unemotional traits. In his studies in both Sydney and London, it was these children who did not meet their mother’s gaze, even when told they were loved.

People marvel at the resilience of children who overcome appalling family backgrounds to make good lives. We understand when childhood trauma sends a child off the rails. But we also have to accept that even good parents can have mean children — how else to explain families where only one child seems to be callous and unemotional, while the siblings are not? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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