The 2004 Montana Early Childhood Conference and the 13th annual Parent Expo are slated to begin Thursday and Friday, respectively, with organizers of the two events partnering to co-sponsor keynote speaker Robin Karr-Morse
, co-author of "Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence."Karr-Morse, who will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the University of Montana's University Theatre, is a nationally renowned children's advocate, family therapist and founder of the Parenting Institute.She
will offer a shocking but empowering message concerning the rising tide of violent behavior among children.Karr-Morse
suggests that traditional explanations of the cause of violence, such as poverty, are simplistic and allow the rest of society to distance itself from the intimate realities shaping children in homes of all classes.Instead, she
argues that to trace the roots of violence, people must look much earlier - before, adolescence, before grade school - to the cradle.
"We are seeing more and more little ones shaped by factors that amount to forms of neglect and abuse that set kids up for later occurring aggression and violence," Karr-Morse
said in a telephone interview Monday.
"In a child's first 33 months (including time in the womb), the brain literally builds itself from experience," she
A normally nurtured child - one that is picked up and soothed when he
cries, one that is fed when he
is hungry, one that is read to and sung to - builds a different brain than a child left to cry, a child given a propped up bottle, a child slapped from time to time by a frustrated parent, she
will speak about research that shows how abuse and neglect during the first years of life can predispose children to violent behavior.She'll point to recent research that shows that infancy is the stage during which the foundations of trust, empathy, conscience and lifelong learning and thinking are built.
She'll discuss basic brain physiology underlying child abuse and neglect, case histories of some children who have committed violent crimes, and why she
believes violent behavior is learned and cultivated in the first few months of childhood.She'll also suggest ways to prevent violence in children, including community programs and public policies that have proven effective in reducing the growing problem.Karr-Morse, a veteran of both child welfare and public education systems in Oregon, was the first executive director of the Children's Trust Fund of Oregon, a statewide public endeavor to prevent child abuse.She
designed and administered three statewide programs for families with children, including one focusing on pre-parenting in high schools, one on teen parents and one on families reported for abuse and neglect.As founder of the Parenting Institute, she provides parents with developmental knowledge, skills and support to raise happy and healthy children.
"I've been seeing families for a lot of years and I've realized we all tend to parent as we were parented," she