“The majority of mental illnesses have multiple causes and childhood and the teenage years are the key period to detect them”.

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More than a hundred teachers and people in charge of youth foundations and associations participated in the first international symposium entitled “ Care and negligence in the family environment.  Impact on child development”, organised by the Institute for Advanced Family Studies at UIC Barcelona within the framework of the Joaquim Molins Figueras Family Policies Classroom.  Montserrat Dolz, Head of the Psychiatry and Psychology Service in the San Juan de Dios hospital, assured attendees that “the majority of mental illnesses have multiple causes and childhood and the teenage years are the key period to detect them”. 

The role of public policies was dealt with by national and international speakers such as Annie Bernier, a professor from the University of Montreal (Canada), who presented their thesis on children's education, brain development and how this affects their executive functions.  On the other hand, Professor Daña Glaser, from University College London, talked about the abuse and negligence of minors and the interventions that can avoid them.

Professor Anna Carballo, from the University of Vic- Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) stated at the round table that “stress begins in the brain and stimulates a response which facilitates survival; it is an alarm system which allows us to survive: it is innate”.  It is an adaptational response, which in itself is not negative.  Stress is demonised, but there is a positive type of stress, which helps us to face challenges.  “It has to be tolerated so that it helps children and adolescents to be autonomous and self-confident”, she declared.  “It becomes a problem when stress is continuous, because it has a toxic effect on the endocrinal system. This is very dangerous for developing brains.”, she concluded.

Monsterrat Dolz, Head of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital also participated in the round table, and said that, according to the WHO, depression is the first cause of disability in the world.  “The majority of mental illnesses have multiple causes and childhood and the teenage years are a key period to detect them”, she said.  In another case, Ricard Calvo, General Director of Care in Childhood and Adolescence (DGAIA) in the Catalan Government, provided details about the situation in Catalonia and. He also said that teenagers are constantly looking for role models, and encouraged teachers to make sure that they can be role models for them.

Some of the conclusions which were reached in the symposium were that personality is developed in childhood; at this stage quality of parental care in order to prevent future dysfunction is key. Children’s mental, health-related, learning and socialisation problems require us to work together with the education, health and family and association sector in order to develop overall intervention policies.

Maternal affection in childhood requires time and care. There are distortional aspects such as stress, a lack of time and a lack of a good family-work life balance which have a serious impact on the safety and potential future cognitive problems of minors. Parenting also requires boundaries, clear role models, stimulation, interest and help with conflict resolution. Intrafamily violence is the main obstacle to this context in which true parent-child love is developed.

On the other hand, the development of ability to pay attention is one of the most important executive faculties for a personality to mature, in terms of future health and a prediction of success and life satisfaction for a particular person.  Various studies demonstrate that it is not an innate faculty but instead an acquired one and in that sense learning and training depends to a great extent on the type of home people have, and the coexistence and interaction that occurs in the family.