Longevity Institute Blog Dr Edmond Devroey's Blog


Solitary Confinement of Children?

About 25,000 inmates are in solitary confinement in US prisons.
Dr. Stuart Grassian, a Board Certified Psychiatrist, describes how solitary confinement of a prisoner alone in a cell, with minimal environmental and social interaction, causes “severe psychiatric harm subsiding upon termination of the confinement”.
The conclusion of Dr. Grassian is that the restriction of environmental stimulation and social isolation associated with solitary confinement are strikingly toxic to mental functioning: “producing a stuporous condition associated with perceptual and cognitive impairment and affective disturbances”.
Read the full article of Dr. Grassian and a report on solitary confinement by Atul Gawande of the New Yorker

Comments from the Longevity Institute.

If an adult brain is fragile enough to be damaged by solitary confinement, should one not expect an identical or greater damage to the brain of a infant?
But why should the solitary confinement of children be of any concern? That is not conceivable in our society. It would be considered child abuse.
You think so? Think twice.

Solitary confinement of children is common practice;
- We routinely separate newborns from their mother during the night and let them cry endlessly in maternity wards and later at home in their own rooms. In our society we tend to assume that such behavior is normal procedure, ignoring or negating the fact that solitude is frightening for newborns and that exposing them repeatedly to it disturbs their brain development and may have consequences later in life exactly like those for adults*

Much worse is the condition of premature babies.
- Each year in the US, more than half a million premature babies spend their fragile first weeks in the solitary confinement of an incubator rather than in the active and familiar environment of their mothers' womb.
Their condition is much more traumatic than the condition of full term newborns, because where the latter, isolated in the maternity ward and then later in their rooms, may complain of not being with their mother, the formers suffers from no longer being in their mothers.
Not only have they been abruptly and prematurely displaced from their mothers' womb, they are then completely deprived of her voice, her heartbeat, and the sounds of her respiration, bowel and of the family environment. As soon as they have survived the most detrimental and stressful event thus far in their new lives (birth), premature newborns are no longer stimulated and comforted by all the movements and sounds they were used to feel and hear in their mother. Instead, they lay, confused, frightened, alone and motionless in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit incubator full of whistles and blows of machines.

* Intolerance to social interaction, agitation, self-destructive behavior, hyper-response to external stimuli, perceptual distortions, illusions, and hallucinations, panic attacks, difficulties with thinking, concentration and memory, intrusive obsessive thoughts, aggressive ruminations, overt paranoia and problems with impulse control.

Filed under: Childbirth 26 Comments