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Project Summary of Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities

Project Summary of Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities

Kathleen Alexia Kovner Kline, M.D.

 

Chief Executer of Hard Wired to Connect

Institute for American Values

1841 Broadway, Ste 211

New York, NY 10023

212-246-3942

kate@americanvalues.org

www.americanvalues.org

 

Abstract

 

Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, from the Commission on Children was published in the fall of 2003. The Commission on Children at Risk is composed of leading children’s doctors, research scientists, civil society experts, and youth service professionals and is cosponsored by the Institute for American Values, Dartmouth Medical School and YMCA of the USA.

 

The Commission on Children at Risk was formed to study how to reduce the large and growing numbers of children in the U.S. suffering from emotional and behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, and thoughts of suicide.  In its report, Hardwired to Connect, the Commission reviews recent scientific findings, especially from the field of neuroscience, suggesting that children are biologically “hardwired” for enduring attachments to other people and for moral and spiritual meaning.  Meeting these needs can promote individual and social health in ways that are demonstrable at the biological level, the Commission finds.

 

The Commission is calling for the strengthening of “authoritative communities,” which provide the kind of connectedness children need, as likely to be the best strategy for ameliorating this crisis in childhood.  A new social science concept, authoritative communities are groups of people who are committed to one another over time and who exhibit and are able to pass along what it means to be a good person.  As an ideal type, an authoritative community has ten main characteristics: 1) it is a social institution that includes children and youth; 2) it treats children as ends in themselves; 3) it is warm and nurturing; 4) it establishes clear boundaries and limits; 5) it is defined and guided at least partly by non-specialists; 6) it is multi-generational; 7) it has a long term focus; 8) it encourages spiritual and religious development; 9) it reflects and transmits a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person; 10) it is philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the principle of love of neighbor. Authoritarian communities can be families with children, and all civic, educational, recreational, community service, business, culture, and religious groups that serve or include persons under the age of 18, that exhibit these characteristics.

 

The report represents the first time that neuroscientists and children’s doctors have collaborated with social scientists who study civil society to improve outcomes for children. The main result is the first serious integration of the scientifically based attachment model of child development with recent advances in the study of how civil society shapes child outcomes.  The report is also the first time leading scientists concerned with children’s mental health problems are arguing for, and offering evidence for, paying much more attention to young people’s spiritual growth and development.

Biography

 

Kathleen Kovner Kline, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and an adjunct faculty member at Dartmouth Medical School. She serves on the Medical Staff of Children’s Hospital in Denver. She is the principal investigator for the Commission on Children at Risk’s Report to the Nation, Hardwired to Connect: the New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities. She received her M.D. from Yale Medical School, and her Masters of Divinity from Yale Divinity School.  She completed her psychiatric training at the Institute of Living/University of Connecticut Psychiatry Program, and her Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at Dartmouth Medical School.  At the University of Colorado and at Dartmouth, she has taught child and adolescent development and psychopathology to medical students, pediatricians, family practitioners, psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatry fellows, and trainees in psychology and social work. Her clinical practice has included treating child and adult patients in acute hospital and outpatient settings, directing diagnostic and psychopharmacology clinics, and consultation to treatment centers for delinquent and severely emotionally impaired youth.  She has a history of involvement with grass roots, community service, and religious institutions, and a particular interest in the role of character-shaping institutions in the prevention of psychosocial maladjustment.


Kathleen Alexia Kovner Kline, M.D.

HARDWIRED TO CONNECT:

The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities

TEN MAIN PLANKS
  1. The mechanisms by which we become and stay attached to others are biologically primed and increasingly discernible in the basic structure of the brain.

 

  1. Nurturing environments, or the lack of them, affect gene transcription and the development of brain circuitry.

 

  1. The old “nature versus nurture” debate – focusing on whether heredity or environment is the main determinant of human conduct – is no longer relevant to serious discussions of child well-being and youth programming.

 

  1. Adolescent risk-taking and novelty-seeking are connected to changes in brain structure and function.

 

  1. Assigning meaning to gender in childhood and adolescence is a human universal that deeply influences well-being.

 

  1. The beginning of morality is the biologically primed moralization of attachment.

 

  1. The ongoing development of morality in later childhood and adolescence involves the human capacity to idealize individuals and ideas.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Religiosity and spirituality significantly influence well-being.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Project Summary of Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities

 

Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, from the Commission on Children was published in the fall of 2003. The Commission on Children at Risk is composed of leading children’s doctors, research scientists, civil society experts, and youth service professionals and is cosponsored by the Institute for American Values, Dartmouth Medical School and YMCA of the USA.

 

The Commission on Children at Risk was formed to study how to reduce the large and growing numbers of children in the U.S. suffering from emotional and behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, and thoughts of suicide.  In its report, Hardwired to Connect, the Commission reviews recent scientific findings, especially from the field of neuroscience, suggesting that children are biologically “hardwired” for enduring attachments to other people and for moral and spiritual meaning.  Meeting these needs can promote individual and social health in ways that are demonstrable at the biological level, the Commission finds.

 

The Commission is calling for the strengthening of “authoritative communities,” which provide the kind of connectedness children need, as likely to be the best strategy for ameliorating this crisis in childhood.  A new social science concept, authoritative communities are groups of people who are committed to one another over time and who exhibit and are able to pass along what it means to be a good person.  As an ideal type, an authoritative community has ten main characteristics: 1) it is a social institution that includes children and youth; 2) it treats children as ends in themselves; 3) it is warm and nurturing; 4) it establishes clear boundaries and limits; 5) it is defined and guided at least partly by non-specialists; 6) it is multi-generational; 7) it has a long term focus; 8) it encourages spiritual and religious development; 9) it reflects and transmits a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person; 10) it is philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the principle of love of neighbor. Authoritarian communities can be families with children, and all civic, educational, recreational, community service, business, culture, and religious groups that serve or include persons under the age of 18, that exhibit these characteristics.

The report represents the first time that neuroscientists and children’s doctors have collaborated with social scientists who study civil society to improve outcomes for children. The main result is the first serious integration of the scientifically based attachment model of child development with recent advances in the study of how civil society shapes child outcomes.  The report is also the first time leading scientists concerned with children’s mental health problems are arguing for, and offering evidence for, paying much more attention to young people’s spiritual growth and development.

TEN MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF AN

AUTHORITATIVE COMMUNITY

(or authoritative social institution)

1) It is a social institution that includes children and youth.

 

2) It treats children as ends in themselves.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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