Home Forums The Science "The refrigerator mother theory of autism"

This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  jaydenwilson3150 1 week ago.

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  • jaydenwilson3150

    In Freedom: The End of The Human Condition Jeremy Griffith writes ‘As with Janov’s lack-of-real-love explanation for ADHD, autism is most often a disastrous consequence of a mother’s inability to emotionally relate to and empathetically connect with her newborn baby.’ This topic is of interest to me as a psychologist. I’m interested to know how this could be justified. The theory known as the refrigerator mother hypothesis deveoped by Bettelheim is now considered completely discredited by psychologists today after Bernard Rimland’s work in the 1970s entitled ‘Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior’. He found in the book the theory to be based on nothing more than ‘anecdotal and circumstantial evidence’. Today’s research tends to agree and has found that environmental factors and genetic factors to be the main causes of autism.

    I have spoken to many psychologists and experts in the field of Autism regarding this topic. In their expert assessments based on years of experience none of them believe in the idea that a lack of parental love is the cause of autism. Am I to believe they are all incorrect in their assessment of children with autism? Any constructive comments on this issue would be appreciated.

  • Damon

    Hi Jayden, you’re right that our lack of love as a reason for autism is almost universally denied. What I would like readers to consider however, is that if humans have suffered from an inability to explain our now horrendously psychologically upset human condition, it was absolutely necessary that we lived in denial of any unbearably confronting truths; hide in Plato’s dark cave where no exposing light could reach us. It follows that when we at last find the redeeming understanding of the human condition, as I think any fair reading of Jeremy Griffith’s book ‘FREEDOM’ will indicate we now have in that book, then all that denial is no longer necessary. So I would encourage anybody reading your post to read ‘FREEDOM’, or it’s condensation ‘Transform Your Life’, and see for themselves if it doesn’t explain the human condition and make all the denials that we’ve had to employ obsolete. There are many unbearably confronting truths that can now be safely confronted and there is probably no more torturous concept that we can now confront than the idea that lack of love is the cause of most cases but not all cases of autism. The arrival of understanding of the human condition is shocking, but because the explanation is entirely compassionate, it is bearable.
    Also, it is the level of devastation of our species’ original all-loving innocent world EVERYWHERE now, not just in parents, that is beyond many children’s ability to cope with now, especially for the more sensitive ones. Everywhere a child looks there is madness, wrongness, bewildering pain, in terms of what their soul expects — as described by R.D. Laing in par. 123, and by Isaiah in par. 182. The honesty of those quotes might be of help to you.

  • Loxodonta locus

    Hi there. I think that “lack of parental love” as a general term is probably a red-herring. The problem is much more fundamental than that. Bear with me.

    About five years ago online, I came across the criticism excerpted below about the Gina Ford “Contented Baby” method. Ford’s method is about establishing a baby’s sleeping and feeding routines from the beginning with an emphasis on so called “self-settling”. Putting Freedom to one side, I’m sure many parents would look askance at the method.

    I have posted on this subject before in other areas and I just wanted to give you all a warning about Gina Ford and her methods of baby care. I for the life of me cannot understand why she is so popular.

    I work with fostered kids and specialise in Babies with attachment disorders. Attachment disorders occur due to neglect and actually change the shape of the baby’s brain irreversibly plus also create many behavioural problems later on.

    the Gina Ford method basically uses what techniques I have heard to be ‘self-settling’ and controlled crying etc. Basically, in a young baby (0-12 months) any lack of responsiveness actually causes a sharp rise in Cortisol which is a chemical released at high levels of stress and anxiety – the same released in neglected children.

    This substance is toxic to a young brain and causes developmental problems such as anxiety issues and now may be thouhgt to be a major factor in the cause of ADHD and other behavioural type problems. The child who has elevated cortisol due to the care giver not being responsive to cries etc learn very quickly to give up, which is how Gina Ford heralds her technique as working, when it actually causes a chemical imbalance which as I have said is toxic to the developing brain. This has finally been proven today by swabs taken from babies mouths when using this type of technique.

    I can see why she has a following, to those who do not know the details and neurological functions, the schedule for the child looks appealing for sure. And who doesn’t want a ‘contented baby’? What it actually does is teaches the young baby from a very early age that his/her needs will not be met properly and responsively, and causes high anxiety which won’t be visible from crying etc, he/she has already learnt that crying won’t work.

    Kids who then get older and I end up dealing with them lots who have these type of disorders actually spend the rest of their lives struggling with behaviour issues and also living on survival mode; food becomes their god and it can take them months and months in a responsive environment to work out that they will get fed etc. This is an extreme example, which I often deal with, but a true one nonethless.
    EXCERPT ENDS (found on a forum)

    Arguably for centuries, few humans have been reared in the way we’re meant to be (think bonobos perhaps) and I totally identify with Jeremy’s views on the matter.

    As well, speaking anecdotally, my ex-wife and I followed “Contented Baby” pretty closely and were rewarded with very few sleepless nights and a child that ate fantastically well. Unfortunately, our son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at about age four. :(

    I offer these comments not in any way as “proof” of what Jeremy has written on the subject. However, in respect of Freedom’s teleological approach in using existing knowledge to understand the human condition (not sure I worded the preceding clause very well but I know what I mean), in yet another small way I can look at my experiences in life and it helps me understand that Jeremy is right.

    Thanks, Oliver

  • jaydenwilson3150

    Thanks Oliver. I have come across Gina Ford’s ‘Contented Baby’ parenting style. Her work is a scant form of operant conditioning disguised as a parenting style. Few if any psychologists would support it. It would be wiser to take the advice of qualified professionals considering her work is supported by no scientific evidence.

    There isn’t much to say regarding the methods outlined in the book apart from the fact that being a maternity nurse does not qualify an individual to comment on the long-term effectiveness parenting styles.

    If there’s one thing that comes out of this thread it would be to try to use reason and evidence, unclouded by emotion when qualifying opinion.