Separation from parent can harm brain development, researchers say

The human brain takes about 25 years to fully mature, but it's the first few years of life that are developmentally critical. According to new research, a traumatic upbringing or a separation from a parent can be very harmful.

Jody Castro and her five-year-old granddaughter, Scarlett, spend a lot of time together, just as she did with her own daughter. 

"One of the things that I realized now that I'm a grandparent is when you're raising your children, you're also teaching them how to raise your grandchildren," Castro said. 

According to research, separation from a parent or caregiver is one of the biggest threats to early development and that includes the separation of migrant families. 

"If they're not getting the emotional responsiveness they need or the cognitive stimulation they need, then regardless of whether the parent is there or not, that is still going to have a negative effect on the brain and behavioral development," said Johanna Bick, PhD, University of Houston.

The trauma experienced by children who have been separated can manifest itself in later life, as adults who have trouble expressing emotions, difficulty relating to others, or anxiety. 

To help, teach your children coping skills for stress and always pay close attention to their signals. 

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