Difference between revisions of "Toxic Socialization"

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Toxic Socialization is a socialization process specifically designed to fracture attachments, undermine Self Esteem, destroy ego boundaries, and disable the body's ability to contain higher levels of Consciousness. Toxic socialization undermines Development and damages the child by denying them satisfaction of needs and exposing them to violence and neglect that undermine the health and integrity of the Physical Unit. Toxic socialization is implemented in order to create a docile and compliant Physical Unit with low CQ, willing to fit into the accumulation machinery of this planet (Sharp, 2013). Toxic socialization is characterized by:

  • Displacement of parents as primary role models and authority figures in the child's life
  • Destruction and/or degradation of primary attachments
  • Violence and abuse. Violence and abuse includes physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual violence.
    • physical abuse: hitting, biting, corporal punishment, prenatal exposure to drugs. sexual abuse: sexual contact or non-contact, sexual interference (Behl, Conyngham, & May, 2003)
    • psychological abuse: abuse that impairs the mental life of the individual, including impairment of intelligence, memory, perception, attention, imagination, and moral development (O'Hagan, 1995).
    • emotional abuse: o abuse that impairs/damages the emotional life of the individual, including their ability to properly regulate emotions, and to take responsibility, be confident, be open to others when appropriate, maintain appropriate boundaries, and trust. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse, excessive demands, excessively harsh judgments, and other abuse patterns that impact the child’s ability to feel happy and healthy in their own skin (O'Hagan, 1995).
    • spiritual abuse:
  • Neglect
    • child neglect, failure to meet nutritional needs, inadequate food, shelter,
    • emotional neglect, abandonment, failure to provide supervision
    • medical neglect/psychological neglect/educational neglect (Behl et al., 2003)
  • Indoctrination

Toxic Socialization damages the mental and emotional apparatus of the Physical Unit. From a Lightning Path perspective, the primary outcome is lower Consciousness in the body (i.e. lower CQ). Additional negatives include Energy System damage, bodily and mental debilitation, mental and physical dysfunction, and greater susceptibility to disease. Psychological, physical, emotional, and neurological outcomes are summarized below.

Displacement of Parents

Destruction and/or Degradation of Primary Attachments

Violence and Abuse

Violence and abuse, whether in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, leads to a host of negative emotional, psychological, and physical sequelea including unhealthy and risky behaviors (Annerbäck, Sahlqvist, Svedin, Wingren, & Gustafsson, 2012), adolescent delinquency (Trickett, Negriff, Ji, & Peckins, 2011), depression (Blain, Muench, Morgenstern, & Parsons, 2012; Christine Heim & Binder, 2012; Hosang et al., 2013; Kendler, Kuhn, & Prescott, 2004; Liu, Jager-Hyman, Wagner, Alloy, & Gibb, 2012), adult and adolescent alcohol dependence and abuse (Danielson et al., 2009; Oberleitner, Smith, Weinberger, Mazure, & McKee, 2015; Shin, Lee, Jeon, & Wills, 2015), anxiety (Blain et al., 2012), eating disorders (Burns, Fischer, Jackson, & Harding, 2012), personality disorders (Wingenfeld et al., 2011), post-traumatic stress disorder (C Heim & Nemeroff, 1999; Zanarini et al., 1997) suicide ideation and suicide attempts (De Sanctis, Nomura, Newcorn, & Halperin, 2012), non suicidal self injury (NSSI) (Swannell et al., 2012), lower grade performance in school (Strøm, Thoresen, Wentzel-Larsen, & Dyb, 2013), lower IQ scores (Bee et al., 1982; de Oliveira, Scarpari, dos Santos, & Scivoletto, 2012), dysfunctional personal relationships (i.e. fear of intimacy, lack of closeness, lack of affection, and intimacy in relationships) (DiLillo, Lewis, & Loreto-Colgan, 2007) and even increased incidence of physical disease (Cuijpers et al., 2011; Hager & Runtz, 2012), angina (Eslick, Koloski, & Talley, 2011), and heart trouble (Fuller-Thomson, Bejan, Hunter, Grundland, & Brennenstuhl, 2012; Fuller-Thomson, Brennenstuhl, & Frank, 2010; Hosang et al., 2013).

A substantial literature makes a clear connection between physical abuse in particular, and violent acting out. As one author notes, “….individuals who were maltreated in childhood were almost twice as likely as matched controls to perpetrate criminal violent behavior…We also found that individuals with histories of childhood abuse and/or neglect were almost three times more likely than matched controls to perpetrate child abuse” (Milaniak & Widom, 2015, p. 252). Violence and abuse does not have to be physical. Verbal and emotional abuse contributes to the same sorts of emotional, psychological, and physical damage as noted above (Wang & Kenny, 2014, p. 917). In addition, simply witnessing violence in toxic households can cause problems. As one author notes, “Witnessing high levels of discord and conflict increases children's risk for a wide array of psychological problems including internalizing (e.g., depression, anxiety) and externalizing (e.g., aggression, conduct problems) problems” (Davies, Sturge-Apple, Bascoe, & Cummings, 2014). The risk of witnessing violence and discord should not be downplayed since the “risk conferred by frequent interparental hostility and discord is almost twice the size of the risk associated with divorce!” (Davies et al., 2014). Indeed, “…interparental conflict is a better predictor of child adjustment problems than marital dissolution or global measures of marital dissatisfaction” (E. Mark Cummings, Dukewich, Cummings, & Dukewich., 2001).

And note, one does not have to actually experience violence and toxicity to be effected. Simply witnessing violence and conflict (including parental discord and conflict) can have a negative physical, emotional, and psychological impact (Davies et al., 2014). Also note, the family is not the only site where toxic socialization processes impact child and adolescent development and health. Exposure to peer victimization is also an important stressor (Solberg & Olweus, 2003), as is bullying by teachers (Sosteric, 2012), and even toxic competitive environments (Kohn, 1986 [1992]). Peer victimization and abuse can be physical (e.g., hitting), verbal (e.g., name calling), or relational (e.g., social ostracism) (Card & Hodges, 2008) and encompasses emotional, psychological, and also spiritual abuse. Be aware, this is not an innocuous part of growing up. It is not just “boys being boys” and “girls being girls.” Victimization at school (by peers or by teachers) can have adverse effects on multiple aspects of development (Rudolph et al., 2014, p. 124). Toxic socialization at school exacerbates the impact of toxic environments at home and is associated with academic maladjustment, absenteeism, low academic ability, lower scores on standardized tests, school avoidance, and destruction of self-esteem (Glover, Gough, Johnson, & Cartwright, 2000).


Actual emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual violence and abuse cause profound damage to the physical unit, but simple lack of care and neglect causes profound damage as well. When children are neglected, basic needs, like the need for safe housing, food, and rest, are not met. Lack of safety and the biological stress associated with deprivation undermines the physical and mental development of the child, but the damaging impact of neglect can arise from lack of physical contact and love as well. For example, studies all the way back into the 1980s demonstrate the critical biological and psychological significance of touch, caressing, love, and human contact. Children who get their needs met, including their need for human contact, do better, They weight more, are more physically active, have higher IQs (Chisholm, 1998), showed superior cognitive ability, and had better language function (Bee et al., 1982). By contrast, children and adults who do not receive sufficient human touch are stunted and damaged. Goleman (1988), a New York Times reporter summarizing extant research, noted that “In some of the most dramatic new findings, premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47 percent faster than others who were left alone in their incubators - the usual practice in the past. The massaged infants also showed signs that the nervous system was maturing more rapidly: they became more active than the other babies and more responsive to such things as a face or a rattle.”

Lack of appropriate parental contact and neglect also leads to growth impairment, risk of metabolic syndrome (Johnson & Gunnar, 2011), impaired/altered neuroendocrine functioning, and altered cortisol responses (stress hormone) levels (Dozier et al., 2006). As Dozier et al. (2006, p. 195) note, “Low cortisol levels have been associated with conduct disorder among children, emerging antisocial behaviors among adolescents, and psychopathy among adults….Thus, our results suggest the possibility that conditions associated with foster care may foster a neurobiology that predisposes to conduct disorder and psychopathy.” Notably, the alteration and impairment that results from fractured attachment and neglect may persist for at least several years (Dozier et al., 2006).

As one author notes, neglect is so serious that children who are not provided with physical contact may even die as a result of their neglect. “About 1/3 of babies placed in the barest orphanages can actually die as a result” (Perry & Szalavitz, 2010; Szalavitz, 2010). Even if death is not the result, people experience a lifetime of struggle, and increased challenges into their old age. As Gregory E. Miller, Edit Chen, and Karen J. Parker (2011, p. 959) note, those who are exposed to major psychological stressors in early life suffer “elevated rates of morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases of aging.” As they note “The most compelling data come from studies of children raised in poverty or maltreated by their parents, who show heightened vulnerability to vascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and premature mortality.”

Most notable is the negative impact on human empathy, attachment, and social functioning that arises from neglect. One study found that “key brain neurobiological mechanisms of emotion, empathy, attachment, and social functioning [were] seriously damaged by simple lack of physical contact (read emotional, psychological, and physical neglect) in early infanthood.”(Fries, Ziegler, Kurian, Jacoris, & Pollak, 2005). In other words, lack of appropriate and copious parental contact leads to problems empathizing, attaching, and connecting with others.


Researchers are still working to determine neurological and biological pathways between abuse, violence, neglect, and emotional, physical and psychological damage. One of the pathways that is rapidly being established is a hormonal pathway. Stressful and abusive environments lead to what researchers call allostatic load. Allostatic load is essentially the wear and tear on the body’s biological systems that results when the body is exposed to chronic and repeated stress. Allostatic load thus represents the physiological, psychological, and emotional consequences of amplified neuroendocrine responses resulting from chronic stress.

Chronic stress caused by abuse, assault, insecure environments, insecure attachments, unmet needs, and so on leads to allostatic load which in turn leads to damaging alterations in the hormone system of the physical body, for example causing dysregulated patterns of cortisol output (Gregory E. Miller, Edith Chen, & Karen J. Parker, 2011). Cortisol is a hormone important in a number of areas of biological function, including the body’s response to stress and environmental risk. Cortisol is implicated in the body’s “fight or flight” mechanisms and acute release of cortisol in response to stress is short term positive. Cortisol helps maintain mental alertness and make energy available in the bloodstream for use in stressful situations (Conradt et al., 2014). However, chronic activation of the body’s systems causes wear and tear, and increases the likelihood of disease (Conradt et al., 2014) and other physical dysfunctions, including metabolic syndrome, chronic inflammation,insulin resistance and weight gain (Weber-Hamann et al., 2002), suppressed immune function, and gastrointestinal problems, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Aronson, 2009). As one author notes, the physical consequences of allostatic load are severe: “Allostatic load leads to impaired immunity, atherosclerosis, obesity, bone demineralization, and atrophy of nerve cells in brain. Allostatic load is seen in major depressive illness and may also be expressed in other chronic anxiety disorders such as PTSD and should be documented” (McEwen, 2003).

Notably, it is not the just the physical body that is harmed by the stress and violence of toxic socialization. Brain damage occurs as well. When experimenters stress rodents by restraining them for six hour periods, rat brains change. Neurogenesis (i.e. the building of new brain cells) is suppressed and the number of neurons in dentate gyrus declines (McEwan, 2003). Besides suppressing neurogenesis, daily stress reduces branching and length of dendrites and neurons in the brain (McEwan (Lupien, McEwen, Gunnar, & Heim, 2009), 2003). Stress thus causes structural changes (i.e. damage) to the human brain, and these structural changes have many behavioural, psychological, emotional, and physical effects (Sousa, Lukoyanov, Madeira, Almeida, & Paula-Barbosa, 2000, p. 253). As McEwen (2006) notes: “Allostatic overload resulting from chronic stress in animal models causes atrophy of neurons in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, brain regions involved in memory, selective attention, and executive function, and causes hypertrophy of neurons in the amygdala, a brain region involved in fear and anxiety, as well as aggression. Thus, the ability to learn and remember and make decisions may be compromised by chronic stress, and may be accompanied by increased levels of anxiety and aggression.” McEwan continues: “The cognitive impairment is likely to be related to the structural changes in the hippocampus…whereas the anxiety, fear, and aggression may be due to changes in the amygdala” (McEwen, 2003). Notably, the greater the stress, greater the effect (Moss, Vanyukov, Yao, & Kirillova, 1999)

Stress impacts throughout adulthood, but is particularly damaging to children. “Early life experiences perhaps carry an even greater weight in terms of how an individual reacts to new situations. Early life physical and sexual abuse imposes a life-long burden of behavioral and pathophysiological problems. Cold and uncaring families produce long-lasting emotional problems in children. Some of these effects are seen on brain structure and function, and in the risk for later depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” (McEwen, 2006).

Sleep Deprivation

Another neurobiological factor besides stress to consider is sleep deprivation. When stressful environments are present in the home or at school (i.e. physical abuse, fighting, yelling, assault, walking on egg shells, etc.) sleep problems ensue. Sleep deprivation contributes synergistically to allostatic load. Sleep deprivation increases blood pressure, increases cortisol and insulin levels, increases appetite, and has been associated with obesity (McEwen, 2006). Indeed, with respect to memory and cognitive performance, there are numerous reports of impairments following sleep deprivation (McEwen, 2006). Sleep deprivation has also been associated with increases in fighting behavior (de Paula & Hoshino, 2002), impaired physical, psychological, and emotional health, and increased stress, cortisol levels, temporal lobe atrophy (Cho, 2001), chronic disease, elevated mortality risk (Carroll et al., 2016), senescence, accelerated aging (Carroll et al., 2016), structural changes to the brain, and cognitive impairment (Rosenberg, Maximov, Reske, Grinberg, & Shah, 2014)

See Also


* Connection 
 * Alignment | Disjuncture | Sin
 * Socialization | Right Environment | Right Action | Right Thought | Toxic Socialization
  * Agents of Consciousness | Agents of Socialization | System Agents
* Discernment | Internal Bullshit Detector (IBD) | Discernment Red Flags
* Intent | Visualization

Further Reading

Neufeld, Gorden & Mate, Gabor (2013). Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers. Vintage Canada.

Sosteric, Mike (2012). The Emotional Abuse of Our Children. Teachers, Schools, and the Sanctioned Violence of our Modern Institutions. Socjournal' [1]


Afifi, T. O., Taillieu, T., Kristene, C., Katz, L. Y., Tonmyr, L., & Sareen, J. (2015). Substantiated Reports of Child Maltreatment From the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008: Examining Child and Household Characteristics and Child Functional Impairment. Rapports documentés de maltraitance d'enfants tirés de l'Étude canadienne sur l'incidence des signalements de cas de violence et de négligence envers les enfants de 2008 : examen des caractéristiques de l'enfant et du ménage, et de la déficience fonctionnelle de l'enfant, 60(7), 315-323.

Annerbäck, E. M., Sahlqvist, L., Svedin, C. G., Wingren, G., & Gustafsson, P. A. (2012). Child physical abuse and concurrence of other types of child abuse in Sweden—Associations with health and risk behaviors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(7–8), 585-595. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.05.006

Aronson, D. (2009). Cortisol--Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, an Indications for Diet Therapy. Today's Dietitian, 11(11), 38.

Bee, H. L., Barnard, K. E., Eyres, S. J., Gray, C. A., Hammond, M. A., Spietz, A. L., . . . Clark, B. (1982). Prediction of IQ and Language Skill from Perinatal Status, Child Performance, Family Characteristics, and Mother-Infant Interaction. Child Dev, 53(5), 1134-1156. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.ep8587753

Blain, L. M., Muench, F., Morgenstern, J., & Parsons, J. T. (2012). Exploring the role of child sexual abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in gay and bisexual men reporting compulsive sexual behavior. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(5), 413-422. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.03.003

Burns, E. E., Fischer, S., Jackson, J. L., & Harding, H. G. (2012). Deficits in emotion regulation mediate the relationship between childhood abuse and later eating disorder symptoms. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(1), 32-39. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.08.005

Card, N. A., & Hodges, E. V. E. (2008). Peer victimization among schoolchildren: Correlations, causes, consequences, and considerations in assessment and intervention. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(4), 451-461. doi: 10.1037/a0012769

Carroll, J. E., Cole, S. W., Seeman, T. E., Breen, E. C., Witarama, T., Arevalo, J. M. G., . . . Irwin, M. R. (2016). Partial sleep deprivation activates the DNA damage response (DDR) and the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) in aged adult humans. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 51, 223-229. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2015.08.024

Chisholm, K. (1998). A three year follow-up of attachment and indiscriminate friendliness in children adopted from Romanian orphanages. Child Dev, 69(4), 1092-1106.

Cho, K. (2001). Chronic 'jet lag' produces temporal lobe atrophy and spatial cognitive deficits. Nature Neuroscience, 4(6), 567-568.

Conradt, E., Abar, B., Lester, B. M., LaGasse, L. L., Shankaran, S., Bada, H., . . . Hammond, J. A. (2014). Cortisol Reactivity to Social Stress as a Mediator of Early Adversity on Risk and Adaptive Outcomes. Child Dev, 85(6), 2279-2298. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12316

Cuijpers, P., Smit, F., Unger, F., Stikkelbroek, Y., ten Have, M., & de Graaf, R. (2011). The disease burden of childhood adversities in adults: A population-based study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(11), 937-945. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.06.005

Danielson, C. K., Amstadter, A., Dangelmaier, R. E., Resnick, H. S., Saunders, B. E., & Kilpatrick, D. G. (2009). Does Typography of Substance Abuse and Dependence Differ as a Function of Exposure to Child Maltreatment? J Child Adolesc Subst Abuse, 18(4), 323.

Davies, P. T., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Bascoe, S. M., & Cummings, E. M. (2014). The Legacy of Early Insecurity Histories in Shaping Adolescent Adaptation to Interparental Conflict. Child Development, 85(1), 338-354. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12119

de Oliveira, P. A., Scarpari, G. K., dos Santos, B., & Scivoletto, S. (2012). Intellectual deficits in Brazilian victimized children and adolescents: A psychosocial problem? Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(7–8), 608-610. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.05.002

de Paula, H. M., & Hoshino, K. (2002). Correlation between the fighting rates of REM sleep-deprived rats and susceptibility to the 'wild running' of audiogenic seizures. Brain Res, 926(1-2), 80-85.

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Cite as:
Sharp, Michael, "Toxic Socialization," SpiritWiki, http://spiritwiki.lightningpath.org/index.php/Toxic Socialization, [Accessed: December 17, 2017]