The dark matter of love.

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About this work


This is a documentary about three Russian orphans who are being adopted by an American family from Wisconsin; the parents worked at the Disney Corporation and have one child, a teenage girl but their dream was to have four children. Science and medicine can explain why children can be emotionally changed by their early emotional experiences and about the child-parent bond. Black and white archive of Harrow Harlow's experiments with monkeys and his ideas of contact comfort appear in clip form with contributions from Dr Robert Marvin, developmental psychologist, who developed a programme on how to deal with new adoptees. The problem may be that the American family have an idealised view of how their lives will be when their adoptees arrive. Also, the children are not all related. Different views of parenting have prevailed such as John Watson's idea of 'spoiling the child' in the 1920s, Konrad Lorenz's theories of bonding in the 1930s (audio from 1935) - Lorenz created a mother substitute by conditioning goslings to identify him as the parent. Poignantly a care-worker in the Russian orphanage would loved to have adopted Masha but the authorities would not have permitted the adoption - this relationship may help Masha learn to love her adoptive family, although their separation is heart-breaking. The kids are very impressed by their new home. Cammi seems to feel displaced by Masha. The development psychologists stand by and analyse video of the children as they interact with the family over a period of time. The family struggle with how emotionally and physically demanding their adoptees are. Truby King from the 1940s (archive audio from 1942) expounded clear boundaries and rules but missed out empathy. Cammi isn't sure that her father's disciplinary approach is working and this chimes with his experience of his own father. Masha seems to have settled well at school and has a best friend. Eric Knudsen's research into neuro-plasticity into animals suggested that owls' brains adjust - younger animals adjust more quickly but adult's brains can change given time. Masha gets a part in a school concert and learns to sing a jazz song about being sad. The twins meantimes seem to have integrated well at their school. Charles Zeanah comments (in 2007) on adoption strategies - children who have been adopted into families have higher IQs than children who have been given foster care. Masha's solo performance at the school concert is shown. The development psychologists are pleased with the progress the whole family has made.


UK : BBC 4, 2013.

Physical description

1 DVD (50 min.) : sound, color, PAL

Copyright note

Double Bounce Films


Broadcast on 30 October, 2013

Creator/production credits

Written, directed and produced by Sarah McCarthy.

Funding information

Wellcome Trust grant output: grantholder; xxx, grant number; xxx, grant type; Broadcast Development Awards.



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