I created this blog to promote the spread of nurturing environments. Societies that increase the prevalence of nurturing family, school, workplace, and community environments will improve the wellbeing of their members in virtually every respect. They will reduce child abuse, marital conflict, crime, substance abuse, depression, prejudice, and interpersonal conflict. They will increase cooperation, productivity, healthy child development, and fun.
Over the past forty years, behavioral and biological scientists have studied all of the most common and costly problems of human beings. They have made great advances in the treatment and prevention of psychological problems like depression and anxiety; behavioral problems like antisocial behavior, substance abuse, marital conflict, and child abuse; and physical illnesses, like obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The evidence from all of these areas converges on a surprisingly simple conclusion. We can prevent an enormous proportion of the problems that confront us by increasing the prevalence nurturing environments. Nurturing environments minimize biological and psychological toxins or stressors, richly reinforce prosocial behavior, teach prosocial values and skills, and foster psychological flexibility. Much of my recent work has summarized the evidence.
Unfortunately, the scientific community has not quite caught up to this fact. The majority of America’s behavioral science resources continue to be invested in treating, and to a much lesser extent, preventing individual problems. It is, as David Sloan Wilson likes to say, a disciplinary archipelago. One group of researchers and practitioners are dealing with depression, another with cigarette smoking, a third with crime. The fact that each of these problems stems from an environment that is stressful, socially rejecting, and unrewarding is missed and the possibility that we could prevent most problems by making people’s environments more nurturing is not seriously pursued.
Prevention research has moved us forward. All of the effective preventive interventions involve ways of reducing stress and increasing positive reinforcement, effective instruction, and psychological acceptance. Yet even in prevention, interventions tend to focus on one or two problems and do not make use of all of the tools available to us. In addition to evidence-based programs, we need policies, simple evidence-based behavior influence practices (what Dennis Embry calls kernels), and data monitoring systems that feed back to community members our progress.
But in this flat world, there is no longer a need to wait for the leaders of the field to decide what to do. I hope to reach anyone who thinks that we could have a better world through direct personal action. For example:
- A mother with a young child in day care who thinks that the children could have a warmer more caring environment, will, I hope, get help from this blog.
- An employee who thinks that his workplace could be more supportive should get help too.
- A political leader who wants to improve public health can get guidance and ammunition.
I have invited several prominent behavioral scientists to join me in making occasional contributions to this blog. And I am hopeful that through your participation and networking with others, we can encourage a grass roots effort to increase nurturance in every facet of our lives.
Tags: Nurturing Environments