Thursday, February 12, 2009

Developing Minds and Coherent Narrative

A few links on early memory, what The Developing Mind calls "implicit memory".

I think I originally planned to write a whole post on the book but now it's gone. But I wanted to save the links anyway in case I ever pick up that research trail again.

What I got from the book on a quick first read (I think the book's worth studying more carefully) is that a coherent narrative of one's past is a crucial sign of either natural or "earned" security in attachment theory.

Here's an article that explains a bit of that. How attachment helps children thrive.

Communication patterns form the basis of early parent-child attachments, Siegel explains. In a process called "contingent communication," a parent perceives the signals of his or her child, processes them and responds to them in a timely fashion. This sensitive form of caregiving makes the child feel safe and understood, and secure that his needs will be met.
Five processes that parents can use to help their children:

  • Collaborative communication, the sharing of non-verbal signals such as eye contact, facial expressions and tone of voice.
  • Reflective dialogue, talking with their children about thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, sensations, attitudes, beliefs and intentions, all of which help kids develop compassion.
  • Repair, reaching out to a child and apologizing after a misconnection.
  • Emotional communication, accepting and sharing both the child's positive and negative emotional states and helping the child regulate his emotions.
  • Coherent narrative, delving into one's past to better understand oneself and one's children.
The "coherent narrative" is particularly important:

Research shows that successful parents have gained insights into how their own childhoods -- and relationships with their own parents -- influenced their development as an adult and a parent. Adults who have "made sense of their lives" tend to raise kids who are securely attached to them.
It's not necessary to have had a securely attached background in order to have a coherent narrative of a background. I personally have quite a few friends who came from insecure or dysfunctional backgrounds and were able to "earn" this coherence in their lives. It takes work, but it is GOOD work.

A review of the book.
A PDF article by the author, Daniel Siegel, called Toward an Interpersonal Biology of the Developing Mind -- it's really more reader-friendly than the title indicates.

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