A while back, I posted a video of an experiment dealing with early attachment, called the Still Face experiment. I’m going to post it again, because of how important this is, and also to compare it to an upsetting video of Caylee Anthony, who was regularly filmed by her mother in home videos, but who never seemed to be interacted with or talked to by her mother, Casey Anthony (who was charged with murdering two year old Caylee–and probably did–but was found not guilty during the court proceedings).
In the Still Face video, a mother and her one year old baby are shown happily interacting. The baby responds to her mother and the mother mirrors her back. It’s a kind of emotional dance they are engaged in together and a beautiful thing to see. It’s this type of interaction that–far from spoiling the child–teaches a child empathy and love, and enables them to form healthy attachments to others later on.
For the experiment, the mother is instructed to stop interacting with her baby and show her a “still face”–a cold face devoid of expression. The speed at which the baby notices the coldness and lack of mirroring is startling, and you can see how quickly the baby first attempts to engage the mother by various means, and then grows frustrated and finally desperate, and she finally cries, at which point the mother comforts her. Even though it’s only an experiment and the mother’s still face only lasts a minute or two, I still had a visceral reaction to it (perhaps because my own mother was cold in this way and I was told allowed me to “cry things out” alone in my room as a baby) and found it triggering.
This type of behavior toward a child is likely to lead to the child developing attachment disorders and later, possibly, personality disorders. Because empathy isn’t modeled for them, many people with narcissism, borderline, or antisocial behavior had mothers (or primary caregivers) who treated them with coldness and failed to mirror them.
Comparison with Caylee Anthony
Caylee Anthony, the murdered toddler mentioned in the first paragraph, was often filmed by her mother, Casey, as she engaged in various daily activities–always alone and with no interaction by Casey. The videos are creepy — coldly recording this child who seemed to show behaviors eerily similar to those of the baby in the Still Face video, but never interacting in any way with her. Unlike the baby in the first video, Caylee rarely cried. It seems she might have already partly given up and already was developing some sort of attachment disorder. Although she apparently wasn’t physically abused (until she was killed), she was definitely emotionally abused by her narcissistic mother. In the video I’ve posted, Caylee shows increasing frustration and confusion, and seems angry at times. Who could blame her?