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15th Jul 2023

These astonishing brain scans of toddlers show the impact love has on us


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When it comes to parenting, I am a fierce believer in that there are so many different ways of doing it, and whatever works for one family, might not be the way another family chose to do things.

And that is perfectly fine.

Because at the end of the day, what matters is that your children feel loved.

Seriously. It doesn’t matter whether or not you co-sleep, or if your family all sleep better in their own respective beds. Or whether you cook every meal from scratch or rely on some ready meals from time to time. It doesn’t even matter if you are a rigid believer in routines and strict bedtimes, or feel a little more relaxed about the whole thing.

Nope. What will matter to your children is that you love them. And that you show them you love them.

In fact, whether or not your children feel loved actually influences their entire being – even down to a physical level.

Just take a look at these two toddler’s brain scans:

According to Kidspot, they belong to two children of the same age, but one is the brain of an emotionally abused toddler and one is the brain of a toddler with a happy home life.

The difference? The scan on the left has significantly less structure and is much bigger than the one on the right.

 That is the image of a “healthy three-year-old with an average head size”.

And the scan on the right, which is far smaller and has far more blurry structures is the brain of a three-year-old who has suffered extreme emotional trauma and neglect.

The difference is just shocking, isn’t it?

This child on the right is suffering from what Professor Bruce Perry, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital calls “severe sensory-deprivation neglect.”

Dr Perry originally shared the images above in a paper on how childhood neglect affects cognitive development later in life.

Perry wrote:

“These images illustrate the negative impact of neglect on the developing brain. In the CT scan on the left is an image from a healthy three-year-old with an average head size. The image on the right is from a three-year-old child suffering from severe sensory-deprivation neglect. This child’s brain is significantly smaller than average and has enlarged ventricles and cortical atrophy.”

Essentially what this means is the child will suffer developmental delays and problems with memory.

Lifetime of problems

It is well known that physical abuse can damage a child’s brain and lead to life-long complications, sometimes even death.

But the effects of emotional abuse are less often thought about, but no less detrimental to a child’s health.

Dr Perry explains that children – and adults – who have suffered emotional neglect can find it particularly difficult to form healthy relationships.

They may end up with attachment issues, in which they become overly reliant or dependent on one person, or they may end up socially isolated later in life.

Several studies have found that kids who experience emotional distress from a young age have problems with emotions and memory.