In their book, Born for Love, Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz report the ability of a child to access higher level problem solving, executive functioning, and thinking skills ultimately depends on the learned ability to self-regulate, and that these capacities are developed through consistent and reliable connection with safe and caring adults.
In simple terms, it is the care and protection of adults that allows infants and children to develop neural pathways in the frontal lobe that transcend the more primitive flight/fight/freeze mechanisms of the limbic system. In the early years in which brain development progresses most dramatically, the neural pathways for higher-level cognition are grown within the safety provided by adults. The absence or chronic disruption of these connections is traumatic and leads to atrophied brain development that can actually be observed in the physical size and activity of the brain in later life.
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