Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence written by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley offers the reader an in-depth look at child abuse and neglect. Karr-Morse and Wiley (1997) discuss the effects of abuse and neglect, looking specifically at violence in children. The book follows a young man, 19 year old Jeffery, who is on death row for committing a murder when he was 16 years old. Jeffery serves as a beautiful case study for the authors and readers to analyze and apply theories to. By looking at Jeffery and other children who kill, Karr-Morse and Wiley(1997) begin to discover the truths about the delicate and important years of infancy and early childhood.
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The authors look at child development and behavior particularly from conception to age two. With development and behavior in mind, they investigate the effects that abuse and neglect have on children’s trust, empathy, conscience, and learning during these pivotal years. Throughout the journey of this book, the reader learns a plethora of interesting facts about human development and how it is influenced by abuse and neglect. Throughout the chapters the readers are also given an opportunity to see the implications of such behavior with real life cases and studies. By taking the time to read Ghosts from the Nursery, one will not only have a better understanding of infancy and early child development but also understand why negative experiences affect children as they do and what it means for society as a whole. Upon the completion of this text the reader will have an appreciation for quality parenting and know the devastating effects abuse and neglect have on children and its influence in creating violent children.
This text offers knowledgeable contributions to the reader’s understanding of infancy and early childhood abuse and neglect. Karr-Morse and Wiley (1997) do an excellent job of explaining why “the interaction of biological variables with environment variables results in pro-social or antisocial outcomes” (81). Examples of this interaction are presented in every chapter with different situations and scenarios. The reader will quickly deduct that this is the most important connection to make and that “children reflect what they have absorbed biologically and socially” (Karr-Morse & Wiley, 1997, 183). The text does a great job assessing a number of issues related to child abuse and neglect including but not limited to early brain anatomy and development, exposure to drugs in the womb, the interaction of parenting and temperament, and the impact of early trauma, head injuries, and emotional deprivation. Each chapter within this text takes a profound look at these issues and how they relate back to childhood violence. Along with providing new and essential knowledge, each chapter is opened by reconnecting with the case study of Jeffery and providing the reader with a personal account of the implications of the issues being discussed. By reading each section carefully and deliberately the reader begins to understand all the variables involved in producing a violent child and the impact these variables have on the way the child processes information, or does not process information as it may be.
Along with presenting valuable information to the reader and deepening the readers understanding of the child abuse and neglect, the text does have its downfalls. While reading, one will observe that ideas are repeated too often causing the reader to begin skimming the material. The authors have a tendency to be repetitious in their writing to a point that it hurts the overall affect of the book. Karr-Morse and Wiley also like to provide in depth explanations which detract from the main point they are trying to convey by shifting the focus to a minute fact, thus losing their reader’s attention. Along with in depth explanations, Karr-Morse and Wiley have a tendency to include too many supporting facts. Though interesting, the facts tend to distract the reader from the main arguments the authors are attempting to make. With these three issues in mind, the overall book is difficult to get through and a relatively slow read. With shorter, more to the point chapters, the authors may have been able to retain their reader’s attention for longer amount of time. These improvements would also place more emphasis on the purpose of each chapter and how it influences the making of a violent child, rather than emphasizing the supporting facts.
Overall, this text is very educational and a valued contribution to any mandated reporter’s collection of knowledge. It is suggested however, that Ghosts from the Nursery be read like a textbook and not like a book one would read before bed. With the knowledge of the writing style the authors express themselves in, one can successfully navigate their way through this book and come out the other side with considerably more knowledge in the field of child abuse and neglect.
There are numerous implications for anyone, particularly a teacher, after reading Ghosts from the Nursery by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith Wiley. First and foremost, one must begin to understand the pervasive effects of child abuse and neglect and how important those first two years of life are on development. Abuse and neglect have many faces, some of which are well hidden from the public’s eye. As a teacher, especially in preschool, it is imperative to be sensitive to these issues and the repercussions if not detected and treated.
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As an elementary or preschool teacher, one will be able to assess a child’s basic physical, social, emotional and intellectual development in comparison to the child’s peers and determine whether the child is on track or not. It is during the preschool years and prior that developmental delays as a result of abuse or neglect will begin to show up in the child. This information may contribute to the teachers inclination that abuse is or is not occurring. It is essential to know that abuse and/or neglect from the time the child is inside the mother’s womb to present day can display itself throughout various times in the child’s development, and in any one of the developmental domains. This text specifically assists the reader in their quest to better identify and understand the less obvious forms of abuse and neglect and comprehend what it means particularly for a child’s social/emotional development.
Looking more closely at the disruptive behavior disorders chapter in the text is also beneficial to an individual entering the education field. Children who have such disorders will become obvious during the early school years as they are overwhelming our preschools and child care centers. With children who have disruptive behavior disorders their “parents often feel exhausted and angry, their feelings of affection stretched thin or greatly compromised” (Karr-Morse & Wiley, 1997, 104), placing the child at a higher risk for being abused or neglected and later developing oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. Some of these children “may be experiencing abuse at home, or come to school out of chaotic and neglectful circumstances that leave them physically and emotionally malnourished” (Karr-Morse & Wiley, 1997, 105). For a teacher, seeing a child who has a disruptive behavior disorder may be a warning flag to keep an eye on the child and family and offer them additional resources to ease any additional stress they may be experiencing.
Consequently, from reading this text, one will have a thorough understanding of how child abuse and neglect affects a child’s development and what that will look like in the child’s behavior. For anyone entering the education field whether it be in the public school district or in a childcare center, those individuals will find themselves mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. By reading this text, and having a solid foundation of what abuse and neglect look like, one will have the knowledge to better be able to advocate for a child’s needs when necessary.
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