The Origins of Human Love and Violence

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James W. Prescott, Ph.D.

Paper presented at the 7th International Congress of the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health. This essay is a precis of a book in preparation which has the tentative title: Understanding The Moral Imperative For Violence: Consequences of the "Unbonded" Child and Gender Inequality. To be published by Continuum Publications, New York.

James Prescott is a developmental neuropsychologist and cross cultural psychologist who received his doctorate in psychology from McGiIl University, Montreal, RQ. Canada. He served as Assistant Head, Psychological Psychology Branch, Office of Naval Research (1963-1966); as Health Scientist Administrator, Developmental Behavioral Biology Program, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH (1966-1980); and President, Maryland Psychological Association (1970-1971). He was the recipient of the "Outstanding Contributions to Psychology Award," Maryland Psychological Association (1977); and the Cine Golden Eagle Award, for his contributions, as Scientific Director, of the award winning Time-Life film, "Rock A Bye Baby" (1971); and has given expert testimony on the origins of human violence, particularly domestic violence, before the Senate of Canada, the U.S. Congress; and many other legislative and professional organizations. He is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor (External Faculty), Dept. of Pediatrics, University of California School of Medicine, San Diego and Director, Institute of Humanistic Science. Address correspondence to Institute of Humanistic Science, 1829 Commodore Road, Newport Beach, CA 92660.


A detailed history of the NICHD/NTH research program on child abuse-neglect and the developmental origins of violence with NICHD's subsequent abandonment of these research programs and obligations can be obtained by writing the Director, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892 and requesting a copy of the complete written and oral testimony of James W. Prescott, Ph.D. before the "Panel on NIH Research on Antisocial, Aggressive, and Violence-related Behaviors and Their Consequences" (1993), specifically, the "Prescott Report: Parts I & II."


Breast-feeding assumes special significance for maternal-infant affectional bonding because of its effects upon the developing infant brain. Absence of breast-feeding contributes to SAD (failure of affectional bonding) which results in abnormal development of the brain serotonergic system (among other brain abnormalities). Similarly, absence of breast milk also contributes to the abnormal development of the infant's brain serotonergic system because of the induced nutritional deficiency of tryptophan which is richly present in colostrum and breast milk but absent in formula milk. Tryptophan is the critical precursor amino acid necessary for the development of brain serotonin. Deficits of brain serotonin have been strongly linked to depression, impulse dyscontrol and violence. The dual trauma of failure of breast feeding and affectional bonding that are prevalent in the American culture contributes to developmental brain dysfunction/damage which predisposes such children to depression, impulse dyscontrol and violence. These infant/child rearing practices which includes institutional day care during the breast-feeding years, tragically, contributes to generations of brain dysfunctional children and adults. It should be noted that UNICEF and WHO recommend breast-feeding for "two years and beyond" (Newman, 1995).