In some unfortunate cases siblings born together may be separated at birth for one reason or another or from their parents.
Some may say that the child is too young to even understand what is happening, but what if I told you that children even from birth are smarter than you think.

Take me for example I have a brother a little over a year older than me and from early ages him and I have always had a strong bond (no matter how annoying he could and can be). Even from young in certain situations where he wasn’t there I would feel almost empty and my mood and behaviour would drastically change, even though the separation was temporary, now imagine if this separation was permanent how I would be, feel, behave both internally and externally.

More recently in the news children have been separated from their parents at the Mexican border, but every single day somewhere around the world children are being separated from their siblings or parents and in this piece today I will be exploring both the short term and long term impacts that may affect the child

With this information and my mind running wild with thoughts, I wanted to, of course, try and link my interest of what’s happening around the world to something medical and see where my research could take me.

According to pediatric and child trauma experts it has been said that although these children are being well-fed and are physically safe doesn’t address the risk of long-term negative impacts on their immune systems, the development of their brains and even how their personalities form.

There are 2 types of impact regarding this issue, one being short term and the other long term.

The short term impacts scientists say that the moment of separation is guaranteed to to be traumatic and panic-inducing in both children and parents, which will trigger elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, high heart and blood pressure, anxiety and symptoms like headaches and an upset stomach.

Jack P shonkoff, director of Harvard University Center on the Developing child, says it is incorrect to assume that some of the youngest children removed from their parents care will be too young to rememember and therefore be unharmed. However reading this I totally disagree, why?, because even now as a teenager I remember key events that have happened in my life from young when I am presented with a situation which may trigger my memory and being separated from your parents is a key event which when older something may trigger the memory.
Continuing from Shonkoff’s idea he says that “when that stress system stays activated for a period of time, it can have a wear and tear effect biologically. The younger you are the more serious the threat.” The children may stop crying and some of the initial shock will diminish he says. However, in my opinion that’s not a reason to believe that the children are no longer in distress.

Ghosh Ippen says that emotionally, some children may be pushed into a state of “traumatic bereavment”- tantrum like behaviour could be replaced with high levels of anxiety and depression.
The second type of impact being long-term impact done to children depends on the duration of separation. Shonkoff states that “forcible separation for a few hours maybe traumatic, but if the children are immediately reunited with their parents they are likely to be ok”.

A principle investigator on the Bucharest early intervention project, a long term study of 136 abandoned children and toddlers who wound up in orphanages in Romania in 2000. Nelson and his researchers have been following the children for 18 years and they say that they have observed very different patterns of brain activity in children who were placed in foster care compared to children who were placed in an institution.

“What we see in kids who have been reared in institutions, that is separation from their parents, is a dramatic reduction in the brain’s activity,” he says. ” If they’re then removed and put into good homes before thee age of two, a lot of this recovers. But if they’re older than two, then there’s no recovery. The brain continues to produce dramatically less brain activity.”

In addition children may develop long-term psychological conditions like: PTSD, anxiety and running a risk of diabetes and heart disease later on in life. There could also be behaviour impacts for example boys in particular may show “callous indifference” for the feelings of others, difficulties in memory, impulse control and more prone to bad behaviour.

Writing this post was interesting to me to see the heavy effects of what separation can have on a child. Seeing this makes me think that someone should really present these findings to people like Trump who deem it ok to separate children from a mother who has held this child for 9 months just to have the child taken away.
Long term impacts is the key thing when looking at this situation.
When asked the how this can be combated. Shonkoff says that debating types of interventions is thinking about the problem backwards (In which I totally agree). He says “The answer is, the best intervention by far is to reunite them with their parents”

Continuing he said “It’s as if children were being fed poison and we asked, “What’s the best treatment for the poison they’re getting? The logical and scientific question is not to come up with the antidote for the poison, it’s to stop poisoning them”

and with that he deserves a standing ovation.


  1. A well delivered post; emphasising the psychological impact that may be brought upon separated children. I like yourself am very close to my brother and would feel lost without him; yet alone being in a situation where I have no choice but to be without him. Very interesting article.

  2. Good post. But sometimes, due to certain situations, it’s best for some kids to be separated from their parents in some special cases (if the parents can’t cater for them or if the parents are drug abusers). You shouldn’t fail to reason from this angle.
    Once again. Great post!

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