"This biopsychosocial perspective demands not only that we look at the immediate parenting environment but also that we look at the broader social picture — which by the way is why we have such a problem accepting it, beacuse it's much easier to blame individuals for their behaviour than to look at the broader social picture. It's much easier to look at genes and say that they are the problem than to look at the broader social picture; as an American writer put it: `It's all in the genes is an explanation for the way things are that does not threaten the way things are.` " — Gabor Maté
Using ADHD as a template, Maté reinterprets a bunch of childhood "developmental disorders" using the biopsychosocial approach, which emphasises that people cannot be understood as lone individuals, that understanding their health requires examining psychological and social factors - especialy their relationships with others. As usual, Maté does not overlook systemic pressures such as the for-profit criminal justice system's drive to encarcerate ever more people, or the medical system's tendency to pathologize ever more people. He reveals the 'gold standard' of genetic determinism studies — adopted identical twin studies — to be far more problematic than generally admitted by the genetic determinists, and tells of his own circumstances as an ADHD sufferer who unwittingly passed on ADHD to his children by his workaholism.
Maté echoes the importance of unconditional love from parent to child which Alfie Kohn was the first to stress on this show, but his analysis goes further, detailing a set of physiological processes which explain it. Like Kohn, he cautions against behaviorist approaches to try to control children. Methods such as 'timeouts' to punish bad behavior end up actually promoting it, he explains, since such punishment damages kids' relationships with their primary care giver, elevating levels of stress hormones such as cortisole and thus stunting kids' emotional development and diminishing their ability to self-regulate. Children's natural response to stress which are effective short term coping strategies, can become permanent traits rather than temporary states unless their stress is alleviated. Maté explains the explosion of childhood developmental disorders in North America in the last half century or so as symptoms of the increasing stresses on parents by an increasingly disfunctional society.
For more details on epigenetics, listen to UG#527..