“We're born alone, we live alone, and we die alone.” Orson Welles’s quote is memorable -- and untrue. We emerge into a web of social relationships that shape our mind and body across the life span, starting before birth. Even childbirth itself is social. It requires not only exquisite coordination between mother and infant to navigate the complex process of labor and delivery, but also the hands-on help of birth attendants. Humans are the only species that practice assisted childbirth. Thus, rather than “born alone,” children enter the world already embedded in a social context. And newborns cannot survive without care. Our very first experiences of life are interdependent.
The family is the first, and perhaps most important, social environment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its influence shapes our bodies as well as our minds. What we call BASE - Biological Adaptation to Social Environments - is an ongoing process that starts before birth and endures throughout life. The social environment provides cues or signals that provide information about the outside world and that shape our physiology: stress responding, affiliative hormones, and the brain. This acronym borrows the term “base” from the attachment literature (“the secure base”) and from “social baseline theory," which suggests that groups show homeostatic regulation of emotion and behavior.
This blog will tackle a broad array of topics related to the science of family life -- parenting, kids, and stress -- and connect them to health and well-being across the lifespan.