Would You Believe Child Abuse Is For The Birds As Well? Can you imagine that researchers on Nazca Boobies – a breed of colonial sea birds, have discovered that abused chicks grow up to be abusers of other chicks and it does not seem to be genetic. It is an apparently behavioral response to the abuse they endured when they were young. Yet is it that surprising? Personally, I don’t think so and here is why.
I believe increasingly that the arrogance of the human race towards other forms of life is systematically being exposed and rubbished by more and more research. We have told ourselves that other forms of life cannot be like us, cannot have forethought like humans, cannot memorise things and do not have feelings.
I have always doubted these assumptions, because to me clearly this is not always true. While I am not for a moment maintaining they are the same as us, I am prepared to believe that in many ways they are not so very different.
Check it out on BBC Nature report about this research conducted over three years in the Galapagos Islands by Wake Forest University North Carolina US and reported in the journal The Auk.
It is claimed that this is the first evidence from a wild animal that, as in humans, child abuse can be socially transmitted down the generations.
They noted across three breeding seasons that not all adults produced chicks. Most couples produced just one. They then noticed that some of those adults who produced none would abuse- even sexually – chicks left alone by parents gathering food for them. Birds were ringed.
They then noticed that in subsequent breeding seasons, those abused previously, and when without chicks of their own, were prone to abusing chicks of others. And the more they had been abused, the greater they abused on other chicks in subsequent years.
In close knit colonies some abuse was inevitable but the fact that this seemed to influence their personality seemed beyond doubt. The psychological damage of child abuse seemed irrefutable.
So I would urge this of anyone having access to or care of children. Of course, it goes without saying that one should never ever abuse children sexually or physically. But that is not all. It goes much further than that. Even repeated verbal abuse or denigrating comments sustained over a period of time, and disdain, and disrespect or mild but persistent criticism can also have the most damning effect on children and their subsequent behaviour towards others and particularly their own children.
Studies of packs of horses and herds of elephants have revealed startling new insights into the way they interact with each other and their young and how it can affect their subsequent behaviour. We are not unique and we can learn so much from them as well as them from us.
Sir Gerry Neale is author of a novel called Squaring Circles touching on some of these issues. It is published in the UK in paperback by Pearl Press Limited ( see http://www.pearlpress.co.uk.) More information is available on http://www.squaringcircles.co.uk. Gerry is also a mentor, and an artist and lyricist.