Vital Signs

Estrogen Poisoning

A first-grade teacher in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., concludes that while some of her pupils suffer various degrees of parental neglect, others seem to be experiencing the opposite extreme: such pampering at home that they cannot even tie their own shoes, and must have it done for them. It takes a while before she realizes that the latter children cannot tie their shoes because no one has ever taken the trouble to teach them.

A developmental psychologist at the University of Rochester is disturbed by the high rate—13 percent and rising—of "attention-deficient," "hyperactive" six- to 12-year-old boys being dosed with Ritalin in that urban area. After reporting on her informal observation of several mother-son pairs ("Son cuddled next to Mom. Son ran the strings from the hood of Mom's jacket through his lips. Son rocked his body back and forth. Son patted Mom's face. Through all of this. Mom ignored him"), the psychologist writes, "What's behind the alarmingly high incidence of ADHD, I believe, is the widespread failure of parents and teachers to help children learn to regulate themselves, including managing their attention. Many parents do not seem inclined to socialize their children" (Rochester Review, Fall 1996).

A young working mother is having a dreadful time finding someone, anyone to whose mercenary mercies she can safely entrust her precious...

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