JAMES W. PRESCOTT, PH.D
1140-23 Savannah Road
Lewes, DE 19958
18 November 2009
Secretary Robert M Gates
Department of Defense
Washington, D.C. 20301-1155
Dear Secretary Gates,
As a matter of introduction, I am a retired developmental neuropsychologist and cross-cultural psychologist, doctorate from McGill University (1964); formerly Health Scientist Administrator, Developmental Behavioral Biology Program, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NCHD), National Institutes of Health (NH), (1966-1980); and Assistant Head, Physiological Psychology Branch, Office of Naval Research (1961-1963).
I am Past President, Maryland Psychological Association (1970-1971) and recipient of its Outstanding Contributions of Psychology Award, 1977.
I have specialized in how the early environment affects the developing brain and behavior, particularly stressful environments, and a DVD summarizes a life-time of scientific and professional experience, titled: “The Origins of Love and Violence: Sensory Deprivation and the Developing Brain, described at http://ttfuture.org/violence and enclosed.
I am writing you to convey my deep concerns about the treatment accorded US Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother of a 11-month old child, who will be separated from her child, and denied time to find alternate care while she is being shipped to Afghanistan (story attached from Truthout, 13 November 2009). http://www.truthout.org/1114098
Apart from the cruelty and inhumanness of this act, it is evident that the scientific findings from over fifty years of research on maternal-infant/child separation are not known by the Department of Defense, particularly, the Department of the Army.
It is the intent of this brief communication to acquaint you with the principal findings of this research and the dangers inherent in separating infant and very young children from their mothers, which are summarized in the DVD and at http://www.violence.de
Laboratory research has confirmed development brain injury and damage consequent to maternal-infant/child separation, which lasts a lifetime, through the processes of sensory deprivation. The developing brain needs sensory stimulation for normal growth and development and once the formative periods of brain development have passed, it is not possible to fully correct for the brain injury/damage that has been inflicted.
This is particularly relevant to understanding the nature of post-traumatic syndrome in adults who have an early infant/child history of trauma, of the kind being inflicted upon the 11-month-old son of US Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson. Who would think of relating the post-traumatic effects of early separation to the potential of recovery from later traumatic effects experienced in adulthood? Will this 11 moth-old son, separated from its mother, make a good soldier? Unlikely!
Will the traumatic stress experienced by the mother with this imposed separation from her infant make her a good soldier? Highly unlikely!
John Bowlby submitted a report to the World Health Organization “Maternal Care and the Growth of Love” in 1951, which stated in part:
"Deprived children, whether in their homes or out of them, are the source of social infection as real and serious as are carriers of diphtheria and typhoid. And, just as preventive measures have reduced these diseases to negligible proportions, so can determined actions greatly reduce the number of deprived children in our midst and the growth of adults liable to produce more of them" (p.181). And
"The second factor still at work is a lack of conviction on the part of governments, social agencies, and the public that mother-love in infancy and childhood is as important for mental health as are vitamins and proteins for physical health" (p. 182)...attached.
Given the mental and emotional health of this nation, the advice of John Bowlby and the findings over the past fifty years has been ignored by the health professionals of this nation.
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1999) in her seminal publication “Mother Nature, A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection”, stated, in part:
"...no wild monkey or ape mother has ever been observed to deliberately harm her own baby"(p.179). (Emphasis added.)
"Along with several recent revisions to "attachment theory", Bowlby's ideas will stand among the greatest contributions made by evolutionary-minded psychologists to human well-being”, attached. http://www.violence.de/prescott/letters/BOOK_OF_THE_CENTURY-HRDY.pdf
What has happened along the evolutionary trail where human maternal violence against her offspring has suddenly emerged without any history of such behavior in the primate evolutionary record? How this great-unanswered question is answered will determine the future of humanity.
The forced separation of mother-infant in the Hutchinson case is an example of a culture in continuing disintegration.
David Mark Mantell (1974) published a remarkable book, True Americanism. Green Berets and War Resisters: A Study of Commitment, now out of print, but should be required reading by all military officers, reflects a sociological perspective almost identical to the developmental neural perspectives presented in the DVD and at http://www.violence.de. He states, in part:
"The character of a nation, its policies and institutions, reflect its family life. One cannot be separated from the other, but most parents do not fully understand the implications of their own behavior for the immediate or future behavior of their children.... It is my view, however, that the reactions of individual Americans to the war in Vietnam were wittingly and unwittingly created within the American family".
"This is a study of personal violence and nonviolence, their origins and course of development, their later involvement in political events, and their relevance to war and peace."
People like the Green Berets may be necessary in potential soldiers if the United States is to survive as a world power. For the United States to survive as an idea, we will need people like the war resisters. We can hope to nurture such men", attached.
Figure 1 illustrates how the Two America’s, The Green Berets and the War Resistors form our Two Cultural Brains that drives the structure and function of our Culture, as we know it, attached. http://www.violence.de/prescott/letters/Our_Two_Cultural_Brains.pdf
Ashley Montagu (1952) published a revolutionary work “The Natural Superiority of Women”, where he stated, in part:
"Human societies must be based on human relations first, and economic activities must be a function of human relations--not the other way round" (p. 243).
"Women are the mothers of humanity; do not let us ever forget that or underemphasize its importance. What mothers are to their children, so will man be to man" (pp. 247- 248), attached. http://www.violence.de/prescott/dvd/Natsup.pdf
I request that you examine your actions against Specialist Hutchinson and her 11 month-old son from the lens of Ashley Montagu and the developmental consequences you are creating.
Frans De Wall and Frans Lanting (1997) published an evolutionary treatise on why homo sapiens is the most violent primate on this planet and the BONOBO chimpanzee is the most peaceful and non-violent primate on this earth despite the fact that we share 99% of our DNA in common. They state, in part:
"Had bonobos been known earlier, reconstruction of human evolution might have emphasized sexual relations, equality between males and females, and the origin of the family, instead of war, hunting, tool technology, and other masculine fortes. Bonobo society seems ruled by the "Make Love, Not War" slogan of the 1960s rather than the myth of a bloodthirsty killer ape that has dominated textbooks for at least three decades" (p.2).
"Physical violence almost never occurs in bonobos, yet is common in chimpanzees (p.9)
The picture emerging from Wamba, then, is one of a female-centered society; in which even the male rank order is largely dictated by mothers. (p.78).
"They nurse for four years and are carried around even longer; their mother takes them everywhere she goes. (p.94).
Why else would this bonobo female be masturbating if not for pleasure? Bonobo females have unusually prominent clitorises and are among the most sexually solicitous creatures in the animal kingdom. (p.111), attached.
One lesson to be learned here is that high physical affectional bonding between mother and infant/child is necessary for peaceful and non-violent behavior. This means breastfeeding and carrying the infant on the body of mother for the first four years of life—an impossibility for most mothers n our culture and for Specialist Hutchinson.
A different brain leads to different behaviors.
Stanley Milgram (1974), in studies on obedience in inflicting pain with normal college students, published an explosive “Obedience to Authority”, which stated, in part:
"Men do become angry; they do act hatefully and explode in rage against others. But not here. Something far more dangerous is revealed: the capacity for man to abandon his humanity, indeed, the inevitability that he does so, as he merges his unique personality into larger institutional structures. This is a fatal flaw nature has designed into us, and which in the long run gives our species only a modest chance of survival. (p.188).
"What is the limit of such obedience? At many points we attempted to establish a boundary. Cries from the victim were inserted; they were not good enough. The victim claimed heart trouble; subjects still shocked him on command. The victim pleaded to be let free, and his answers no longer registered on the signal box; subjects continued to shock him "(p.188).
"The results, as seen and felt in the laboratory, are to this author disturbing. They raise the possibility that human nature, or--more specifically--the kind of character produced in American democratic society, cannot be counted on to insulate its citizens from brutality and inhumane treatment at the direction of malevolent authority. A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority. (p.189)
"In an article entitled "The Dangers of Obedience", Harold J. Laski wrote: "...civilization means, above all, an unwillingness to inflict unnecessary pain. Within the ambit of that definition, those of us who heedlessly accept the commands of authority cannot yet claim to be civilized men" (p.189.). http://www.violence.de/prescott/dvd/Milgram.pdf
The emotional pain of separation from mother (perceived abandonment) is perhaps the worst pain. John Steinbeck has perhaps stated it best in East of Eden (1952):
"The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt--and there is the story of mankind"
No 11- month old child or five- year old child can explain the loss of mother.
Secretary Gates, I am enclosing two copies of the DVD and request that you take the time to view the Time-Life national and international award winning film Rock a Bye Baby that was premiered at the 1970 White Conference on Children (30 min); the CTV W-5 Toronto program on Child Abuse (11 min); and the Interview “Culture Shapes The Developing Brain” (1989, 42 min). Other information on the DVD can be explored at will.
The book descriptions can be found in Books of the Century at
I also urge you to take immediate actions to reunite US Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson with her 11-month old son and to prevent any further separations.
I trust that this information will be helpful to you in formulating humane policies in the treatment of mothers and their children in the armed forces.
James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
Cc President Barack Obama
The White House
Secretary John McHugh
Department of The Army
1. Army Sends Infant to Protective Services, Mom to Afghanistan 13 November 2009 Truthout
2. John Bowlby (1951). Maternal Care and Mental Health
3. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1999). A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection
4. David Mark Mantell (1974). True Americanism: Green Berets and War Resistors
5. James W. Prescott, Two Cultural Brains
6. Ashley Montagu (1952). The Natural Superiority of Women
7. Frans De Wall & Frans Lanting (1997). BONOBO: The Forgotten Ape
8. Stanley Milgram (1974). Obedience to Authority
9. Prescott, J.W. (1975) Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence. The Futurist April.
Reprinted: The Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists (1975) November.
10. James W. Prescott and Michael Mendizza (2008). DVD: THE ORIGINS OF LOVE & VIOLENCE: SENSORY DEPRIVATION AND THE DEVELOPING BRAIN
*URLs have to be cut and pasted in Browser to access article.