Allan Schore on Baby-Mother “Joy”

On-line interview with Allan Schore (
The Importance of Joy and the Mother/Child Attunement in the First Two Years

Dr. Allan Schore is on the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and at the UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development.

Warning, this interview is a bit technical. I have tried to underline critical portions. The point is this. The importance of care-giver/child experience of joy, play, laughter and the like is as important as the need for the care-giver to help the child regulate when upset. If there is not enough relational joy, the child’s ability to deal with emotions and relationships is diminished. Check it out.

“My focus is now on psychobiological state which is the underlying internal state on which affect cognition and behavior swing. In other words, think when you’re in a depressed mood things seem darker, time moves slower, cognition is more negative, the body is more restricted, there is more pessimism, so there is a whole host of the self-systems that snap together in place with that depressive state.While in a more positive elated state the colors are livelier, time is moving at much different pace, a much quicker pace, the cognitions are much more positive about the self and the emotions of course are more joy and interest there.

What I have concluded as a result of the most recent infant research is that positive emotions are much more central than we thought. Positive affects are key to early development, they’re key to growth, they’re also key to not only positive psychological states but physical health. So now as much of my work is now not only swinging around trauma and negative but also the positive emotions of interest, excitement and enjoyment. Joy has something to do with the quality of life and the pole or opposite of joy would go to shame. My interest is in social emotions and how they develop and how they’re influenced by the attachment relationship and how social emotions, such as shame, regulate the ongoing interactions between human beings.

Neuroscience now indicates that play experiences, which we now know start at the end of the second month, and which is also associated with an intense growth spurt in the brain, are central to development. The attachment to the mother is therefore not only minimizing negative states but she’s maximizing positive states.

The brain growth spurt is from the last trimester of pregnancy through the second year…These are times of intensified growth, ie., increased synaptic production and differentiation. In these critical periods of brain growth, the infant needs certain types of social and emotional experiences. The attachment relationship provides the ground and the modulation for various high energy states. At these points the caregiver’s receptivity to the infant’s cues are crucial. Assessing infant development from the pediatric point of view now means assessing not just the infant per se but the nature of the infant’s relationship with the mother. The quality of their communication will be seen as being as critical to the infant’s growth as other factors.

…My interest in the first two years of life is not generally how social experience in an abstract way impacts the brain but very specifically how it impacts the emotion generating limbic system and the right hemisphere of the brain which connects into the body. The left hemisphere does not come on-line into a growth spurt until a year and a half when the child has learned a few words so all of these early experiences, I’m suggesting, are specifically impacting the non-verbal right brain.
…The earlier the mother infant dyad goes off track, the more problematic that going to be for development down the line. There is evidence too that the attachment relationship also impacts the connections between the brain and the immune system, which will give us new insight into psychosomatic disorders.
…The right brain stores internal working models of the attachment relationship. It processes emotional social information its functions are as diverse as enabling empathy, humor, and many of the capacities that are fundamental to human subjectivity.

The mapping of bodily states-visceral, muscular, skin etc – is now seen as fundamental to the processing of emotion. Representations of the internal state are integrated with external stimuli or internal stimuli, such as the image of another’s face, and form the basis of our experience of the world. Further, we recognize another individual’s emotional state by generating somatosensory representations that match our perception of a certain facial expression…The social implications are profound…What human beings learn in their first interactions with other human beings, in the mother infant relationship, are central to the formation of self-concept, of positive and negative concept, of self-regulation, of the ability to regulate internal bodily states, of the capacity for empathy, the ability to read the states of the mind of other human beings, these do not come out of later language forming situations, therefore, …

…I am worried about the fact that in this country maternal leave is 6 weeks and in Britain it’s not too much longer than that. In other countries in Europe – Scandinavia and Germany – maternal leave as a Governmental policy is 30-50 weeks. In the U.S. we send mothers back into the work force at 6 weeks, which is the point whereby the face to face joy interactions just begin. Parents now have this terrible dilemma of how to face this problem without any social support at all, or any programs at all. In addition, the level of day care here is on the average is sub-optimal, the people in it are paid very poorly, they’re not trained enough etc. I’ve got to think of a word here, the first word that comes is scandal I don’t know.Let me put it this way I would use the word ‘it’s a shame’. I would say that we as adults in our society should definitely have some shame about how we are avoiding this problem and about how little attention we’re paying to our futures.