Short and Long Term Effects on Infants and Toddlers in Full Time Daycare Centers

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Full-time daycare for infants and toddlers is stressful. This negative state is induced by perception of maternal rejection and abandonment, lack of an ongoing empathic dyadic relationship with the mother, and having to interact with multiple caregivers. The lack of empathic care the children are experiencing creates a growth-inhibiting environment that produces immature, physiologically undifferentiated orbital affect regulatory systems and parcellation of corticolimbic circuitries. Daycare stress is activating each child's hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis on a daily basis causing a persistent overproduction of corticotropin-release factor (CRF) and an ongoing release of abnormally high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and the catecholamines, hormones that may disrupt the neurobiological maturation of the developing brain and destroy brain cells. These stress-induced impairments are implicated in an enduring vulnerability to various later-forming psychiatric disorders such as depression, chronic anxiety, attachment disorders, dissociative disorders, learning disorders, and attention deficit-hyperactivity (ADHD). The empathic dyadic attachment and secure attachment needed for the experience-dependent maturation of the regulatory system in the orbital prefrontal cortex may not be possible in a full-tune daycare setting. The infants and toddlers in daycare often develop insecure-avoidant attachment or non-attachment disorders.


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Henry Brandtjen, M.A. and Thomas Verny, M.D., D.Psych., FRCP(C)

1 Henry Brandtjen received his MA from the Dept. of Human Development at St. Mary's University, Minneapolis, MN. Thomas Verny, M.D., is Adj. Prof, in the same Department as well as on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Henry Brandtjen may be reached at 2184 Lower St. Dennis Rd., St. Paul, MN 55116. Phone: 651 690-2342 email: