NY Times: Childhood Trauma Linked to Adult Outcomes


David Brooks of the New York Times writes about the link between childhood trauma and “long lasting neural effects, making it harder to exercise self-control, focus attention, delay gratification and do many of the other things that contribute to a happy life… Different people (are) in different policy silos with different budgets: in health care, education, crime, poverty, social mobility and labor force issues. But, in their disjointed ways, they are all dealing with the same problem…  that across vast stretches of America, economic, social and family breakdowns are producing enormous amounts of stress and unregulated behavior, which dulls motivation, undermines self-control and distorts lives… Maybe it’s time for people in all these different fields to get together in a room and make a concerted push against the psychological barriers to success.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. read allen frances md response to david brooks


    Allen Frances
    Professor Emeritus, Duke University

    Don’t Blame Everything on Psychology

    I have an offer for David Brooks. If he promises to stop being an amateur psychologist, I promise to stop being an amateur columnist.

    What Brooks doesn’t know about psychology is a lot. Everything he says about it has a shallow ring, is misinformed, and displays the same bias and ulterior motive. Brooks is a complacent apologist for the status quo. Whenever events scream out that there is an obvious defect in one of his cherished social policies, Brooks comes to its defense with a muddled pop psychological explanation — hoping in the process to deflect attention away from any serious policy discussion of what has gone wrong and what can be done to correct it. The consistent tactic is to rationalize a failing public policy by putting all the blame on messed up individual psychology.”

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  2. Brooks is such a reseller of warmed over pop neuroscience, it’s pathetic.

    “neural effects”. Gosh! We don’t need to slice up dead kids brains and put live kids in an fMRI to understand poverty and human deprivation and neglect. It’s such a bizarre world we live in these days.

    What’s the point of looking inside the body to explain stressful social conditions? Ted Kennedy watches both his brothers get shot, and still has an effective career as a legislator, nothing about his neurology is relevant until he gets a brain tumor. He was a traumatized person no doubt. So what is David Brooks going to tell us about the “neural effects” of stress?

    I’m embarrassed to admit when I was younger I used to read David Brooks. Now I look at him as a pop neuroscience hack, just like Jonah Lehrer was before Lehrer got caught making things up.

    It’s not sophisticated to bring shiny fMRI pictures into human problems. It sounds sophisticated, it has the accoutrements of sophistication, but it is nothing but scientism and window-dressing.

    And I read the chair of DSM4’s response to Brooks. Empty, empty, empty, just like everything from Allen Frances, a man who finally got the “courage” to speak out against “some” of his profession’s activities, when he was retired and done created manuals responsible for the 1990s/2000s bipolar labeling epidemic. I find him revolting. Truly.

    David Brooks the New York establishment elite columnist, doesn’t appear to see fortunate, unfortunate, advantage, disadvantage, he sees “neurally damaged” people, and “neurally intact” (I assume) people.

    Strange days coming out of New York. What is it now? “Bring us your neurally damaged masses?” instead of huddled masses?

    A warmed over pop neuroscience view of the world is the modern fool’s view of humanity.

    It’s so depressing living a world riddled with this cancer.

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