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Hardwired To Connect With Others

Hardwired to Connect is the name of a report issued by the Commission on


Children at Risk and published in 2003. The Commission is made up of 33
pediatricians, research scientists, mental health professionals, and youth
service professionals. The study was jointly sponsored by the YMCA of
America, Dartmouth Medical School, and the Institute for American Values.

The report sets out 10 points, or "planks," on what young people need to
develop into mature and functioning adults, and cites the scientific studies
supporting their conclusions. What are the Ten Essentials, or "Planks" of the
Report?

1. The mechanisms by which we become and stay attached to others are


biologically primed, and are increasingly discernible, in the basic structure of
the brain.

2. Nurturing environments, or the lack of them, affect gene transcription (and


duplication) and the development of brain circuitry.

3. The old "nature vs. nurture" debate ... is no longer relevant to serious
discussions of child well-being and youth programming.

4. Adolescent "risk taking" and novelty-seeking are connected to changes in


brain structure and function.

5. Assigning meaning to gender in childhood and adolescence is a human


universal that deeply influences well-being.
6. The beginning of morality is the biologically primed moralization of
attachment.

7. The ongoing development of morality in later childhood and adolescence


involves the human capacity to idealize individuals and ideas.

8. Primary nurturing relationships influence early spiritual development - call it


the spiritualization of attachment - and spiritual development can influence us
biologically in the same ways that primary nurturing relationships do.

9. Religiosity and spirituality significantly influence well-being.

10. The human brain appears to be organized to ask ultimate questions, and
seek ultimate answers.

The report cites the high and rising rates of depression, anxiety, ADHD,
conduct disorders, suicidal ideation, and other serious mental and behavioral
disorders. About 21% of US children between ages 9 and 17 have a
diagnosable mental disorder or addictive disorder.

According to the commission, social programs, mental health agencies,


medications, and psychotherapies are useful, but they are inadequate to
change the growing problem.

The solution to solving this growing problem is "Authoritative Communities."

There is a two-part conclusion to the commission's report. The first conclusion


is that, "What's causing this crisis of American Childhood is a lack of
connectedness - close connections to other people and deep connections to
moral and spiritual meaning."
The second conclusion of the commission is that, "the human child is hard-
wired to connect." According to the commission, humans are designed to need
other people, to have moral meaning, to seek a purpose to their life, to be
open to the transcendent, and to seek ultimate answers. And they concluded,
"Meeting these basic needs for connections is essential to health and to
human flourishing."

Authoritative Communities are defined by the commission as "...groups of


people who are committed to one another over time, and who model and pass
on at least part of what it means to be a good person and live a good life."
Both families, and churches, fit this definition.

"The weakening of authoritative communities in the US is a principal reason -


arguably the principal reason - why large and growing numbers of US children
are failing to flourish. As a result, strengthening these communities is likely our
best strategy for improving the lives of children." What is an "Authoritative
Community"?

1. A social institution that included children and teens.

2. It treats children and teens as ends in themselves. (As opposed to treating


them as means to an end.) It relates to the child or teen as a person and cares
for them for their own sake.

3. It is warm and nurturing.

4. It establishes clear limits and expectations.

5. The core of its work is performed largely by non-specialists.

6. It is multi-generational.

7. It has a long-term focus.


8. It reflects and transmits a shared understanding of what it means to be a
good person, or to live a good life.

9. It encourages spiritual and religious development.

10. It is philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the
principle of love of neighbor.

Although the Report does everything that it can to avoid referring to God, or to
Christ Jesus (using instead phrases like "seeking the transcendent" or
searching for "spiritual meaning") their point is very clear. Even physicians and
research scientists, in studying adolescent and child development, mental
health, and dysfunction, agree that our children and teens will be healthier if
they are involved in their families, and in Church.

Invite your friends, your neighbors, and their families to join you at Church
next week. Help them to feel at home, and introduce them to others.
Encourage them to consider their benefits of being a part of our "Authoritative
Community." Help them to see the benefits of Church attendance and
involvement, for their marriage, their family, and their children.

Dr. Cowan is a family therapist who has worked with ADHD children and their
families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's
family of web sites at http://newideas.net helping over 350,000 parents and
teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Cowan also serves on the Medical
Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of
Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is a Board Member for
Outpost Ministries which is building schools for children in rural Guatemala.
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This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from
your physician or health care provider. Always consult your physician about ADHD.