What Is the Causal Theory?

Picture of Dr. S. Faye Snyder

The Causal Theory
An Interview with Dr. Faye Snyder
By Pixie Campbell

The Causal Theory is a progressive theory of personality development based upon cause and effect. It assumes that personality and behavior, including and especially adult behavior, result from childhood experiences beginning from birth, and perhaps even in utero sometimes.

By definition, The Causal Theory cannot coexist with other theories grounded in genetics. It does not maintain that genes are responsible for creating personality or behavior, but rather that experience is the predominant and only relevant determining factor. Of course, the body, designed by genes, produces the mechanisms by which we record our lessons from which to operate. Primarily these adaptive mechanisms are called “mirror neurons”. With education and intervention we can update and modify these coping skills.

This is to say that, in the Causal Theory, we don't leave treatment up to medications. Theories based on genetics often rely on the medical model, leaving little hope for change other than pharmaceuticals, which are designed to disable areas of the brain leaving no long-term corrective solutions. With the medical model, you treat the symptom without identifying the cause of the problem. The medical model, also referred to as “nature” in the Nature v Nurture Debate, is represented to be scientific, but it has historically been faith based, and research has been modified to fit. That is to say, we have been deliberately misinformed. For more information on the research, see The Search for the Unholy Grail: The Race to Prove that Personality and Behavior Are Inherent (Snyder, 2012).

The Causal Theory holds that an individual’s personality and behavior reveal quality of nurturing and indicate trauma. The Theory borrows and expands on lessons from attachment theory, trauma theory, family systems theory, some cognitive behavioral treatment theories and the research on mirror neurons.

The Causal Theory identifies inborn mechanisms which facilitate healing and offers a synthesis of best practices to create healing for children and adults. Once parents are informed how healing works, we are enabled to address our own unhealed suffering and that of our children. We learn to help heal trauma by witnessing and listening as someone processes their traumatic experiences. We also learn the behaviors and choices necessary to win in life that ordinarily come from healthy childhoods or the skills learned and practiced by healthy people know.

Using The Theory, we can raise a miracle child, who is securely attached and ultimately low-maintenance. A well-parented child is appropriately humble, curious, caring, creative and ethical. They are good followers who become good leaders.

Why is Causal Theory better than any other?

The assumptions that The Theory makes pay off in many ways. Though it is easier to use genetics to explain away behavior, Causal Theorists don’t dismiss any part of the personality or behavior as inborn. These are clues. They are even evidence of a good or poor hypothesis of cause.

We seek to understand what we see in a child and, consequently, we can see behavior more clearly than those who blame genetics, even in part. Everything we see is meaningful and, more importantly, capable of correction or healing. We look at all behaviors as clues that can inform us when a child received nurturing and in what ways they lacked it. We can tell what needs to be corrected and even how to go about that task.

For example, a child who exhibits an inability to sit still, pay attention, and focus (and who may have already been diagnosed with ADHD), suggests to us a child with bottled up feelings that need to be expressed so she can stop “bouncing off the walls.” We determine when and how the symptoms began. We often find separation anxiety from spending time in daycare at an early age that develops into a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, in part due to the trauma of daily abandonment, and in part because the child’s feelings were being repressed. In the latter case, we would need to explore the family system as to whether there is an open exchange of feelings or whether the family believes in keeping secrets, even when there is nothing big enough to warrant secrecy, or in repressing feelings as an ethic. We help parents learn new ways of treating their child, including how they can reverse or heal the effects of their learned practices and mistaken parenting.

When you believe that personality is created, not born, you take more responsibility as a parent. You can equate it with a chef who tastes her food as she prepares it to carefully see how it’s developing, adjusting as she goes. If a parent is tuned into how her child is turning out, she can adjust the child in time for greatness. So, The Causal Theory informs us how to raise a Miracle Child, how to heal an injured or traumatized child, and how to correct our own childhood adaptations and behaviors which no longer work.

The genetics model leaves no hope for change. The idea is that if you’re born with a behavior, you’re prone to it, if not stuck with it. This dismal theory is widely embraced without scrutiny, because it offers parents easy outs. It frees parents of personal responsibility for how their child is raised, even though parental guilt is not the primary issue and most parents would rather be informed, so they can make the optimum choices. Genetic Theory and pharmacology also offer parents a quick fix with very possibly a high price. That choice is supported by massively funded propaganda from the pharmaceutical industry; is promoted by corporate America which enjoys a saturated work force that includes women; is recommended by the women’s movement (I’m so sad to say); supported by teachers who need a more manageable classroom; benefits the daycare industry; and reassures parents that how their child behaves was inborn.

Recently, we have seen a surge in autistic diagnoses, when many of these behaviors result from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), formerly attributed to adopted children who have suffered attachment breaks, but now identifiable in children who spend their earliest years in daycare or with rotating caregivers. Because most clinicians don’t realize that RAD children in the home are suffering from abandonment trauma and separation anxiety, they wrongly assume these wild behaviors are variations on autism. To some extent they have similar origins. What seems to be the result is that these parents, who innocently obtain a wrong diagnosis, often become passive, assuming they dare not discipline a “disabled” child whose behavior is “inborn”. The result is disastrous. The RAD child becomes even more unmanageable and unable to adapt to social norms, possibly headed for a drug inspired or violent ending. Whenever parents presume genetics such that they expect little of a child due to another diagnosis, that diagnosis is compounded and results in the fruits of permissiveness: wanton behavior. Parents whose child was diagnosed as autistic early in life can end up with a child who learns how to fit in and make the most of life, because the parents believe in the child’s ability to grow and become; or they can raise a child who is outraged, hostile, and rude, because the parents disengage, expect nothing and think they cannot upset the child.

The Causal Theory, on the other hand offers hope. You can adjust what you’re doing as a parent and thus change the outcome of your child’s life if you are tuned in to your child’s behaviors and you make short-term choices which have long-term positive benefits. Sometimes this is just a matter of deciding how high is your bar? What kind of child do you want to raise? Do you want your child to be very high functioning and truly in love with life, or are you good with average or even below average functioning?

Is there research to support the Causal Theory?

The Causal theory is not just practical and applicable; it is also supported by research. Recent research by the Human Genome Project and a multitude of other researchers has debunked previous claims that genes cause behaviors and shows a correlation between abuse, trauma, failed attachments, abandonment, neglect and repression, family repression ethics and blame ethics, all internalized and saved by mirror neurons, as ingredients for personality and behavioral problems. We believe that the more extreme the childhood trauma, the more extreme the results. The more nurturing and consistent is the care and discipline in early childhood and the healthier the family ethics, the more amazing will be your child.

Among the recently debunked and long-held assumptions are: the “gay gene,” a depressed or anxious gene, an alcoholic gene, a bipolar, and even a schizophrenic gene. No such genes have been identified. All have been hypotheses sold as proven until exposed for deceptive design, sloppy procedure, and speculation without scientific basis. The studies that can report “results” to their benefactors, inspire fraudulent practices, in order to get paid. However, it’s valuable to know that large amounts of careful data have been collected that demonstrate attachment disorders, personality disorders, developmental disorders, trauma, and other behavioral issues correlate consistently with identifiable environmental causes, predominantly parenting styles.

But aren’t some conditions genetic?

Of course, we know that some medical conditions and diseases are inheritable. Down’s Syndrome is genetic. We know that fetal alcohol syndrome, although environmental and not genetic, has medical and long-term consequences in the creation of the mind and body of the child. However, these are not personality and behavioral anomalies. They are physical traits which create behavior and even choices, as a very short man will not be as likely to excel in basketball.

We have some good reason to suspect that some behaviors are directed by genes, but these instructions are universal to all infants everywhere. For example, all babies want to root in order to nurse, and all babies seek to attach. However, since these are universal behaviors, they don’t prove that unique traits are inborn.

Personality forms around interaction and experience, neurologists say. Down’s Syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome are medical issues, not psychological ones. Yet psychiatry has long been trying to medicalize mental illness to keep it under their domain. This serves a giant population of defensive parents and an economic power structure that includes pharmacology and research endeavors, probably the greatest of which was the Human Genome Project, which failed to identify any genetic causes for behavior (Snyder, 2012, pp 97-98). I wonder if Causal Theory, attachment theory, or trauma theory will ever inspire such generous research grants.

Does Causal Theory blame the parents?

It may seem like we're blaming parents for how their child turns out, which could be really hard to hear, when you've done everything you knew to do. You’ve been the best parent you could be; you’ve been seeing a therapist; and no one told you not to put your child in daycare or to quit teaching your child not to cry when she’s been emotionally or physically hurt or not to say what she thinks. Unfortunately, the information for how to be the best possible parent hasn’t been readily available until now.

This is why I wrote the Causal Theory of personality, parenting, healing and self-awareness. If you know that your child is the way he is because of his history, it isn’t too late to help him.

Also, please keep in mind that all parents were children, too. We turn out the way we do because we adapted brilliantly to our own childhoods. We have adapted to our own families, which reduces our ability to be especially tuned-in parents. We will tend to see what we expect to see. We have to readjust, unlearn, or relearn, which is what a journey into self-awareness intrinsically is.

We’re not parent-bashing. Parents are the most important person in the world to their child. We want parents to take responsibility and change what doesn’t work. Parents, who are willing to do this, no longer need to feel guilty or blamed even though opening up to corrective feedback can be hard on our egos. Not one person enjoys being critiqued for their parenting. This is delicate material. However, parents who are willing to receive constructive guidance and make adjustments, will most likely be the parents who raise extraordinary, self-reflective and contented children.

There seems to be a couple of cornerstones to this theory. One is the importance of seeing clearly, especially seeing our children clearly, which requires that we see through our own eyes, not those of our parents. I know that sounds abstract, but when you get it, you will perceive like never before. Getting it takes self-reflection on our own childhood.

The other key to reversing parental mistakes or even healing trauma is our ability to be humble, courageous and love the truth. Some parents just don’t want the information, no matter how symptomatic are their children. You can’t teach anyone whose ego is more important than their child’s needs. These are deeply injured people who don’t want to hear it. They are often those most highly guarded against information that anything was wrong with their own childhood or the way they were parenting. The problem is that denial leads to harsh results.

For information on The Miracle Child Parenting Series, contact

The Parenting and Relationship Counseling Foundation (PaRC), previously known as The Institute for Professional Parenting (TIPP) at theparcfoundation.com or you can read more Causal Theory at drfayesnyder.com .