Cuddle up to Your Babies, Mothers!



By: REBECCA BITTON  
Published: July 27th 2010
in News » Local

A mother and children
Pic: wikimedia commons

According to a follow up of a study conducted in the 1960s by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, infants who experience above-average affection from their mothers are not only at an advantage in their infant lives but in their adult lives down the road.

 

Dr. Joanna Maselko, the professor and lead author of the study from Duke University Medical School in Durham North Carolina, told Globe Life that despite common belief, her research may suggest that “maybe you can’t be too affectionate.”

 

The study began in the 1960s when 482 babies at the tender age of eight months were studied based on the interaction and responsiveness they received from their mothers. The researchers followed up with those same participants in late 1990 when the participants had an average age of 34. Eighty-five per cent of their parents displayed what researchers described as normal levels of affection and only 10 per cent reported low levels while another four reported high or “extravagant” levels of affection.

 

The mature adult participants were then given a questionnaire to determine how they cope with anxiety, hostility, and what their levels of distress were like. The most interesting correlation found in the study was the fact that those who reported the highest levels of affection from their mothers also reported the lowest levels of hostility, anxiety, general distress and reported to have been more confident adults. Therefore, the more love mothers heaped on to their little one, the more capable their babies were able to deal with adult issues in their adult lives.

 

Researchers confirmed their results, stating in Health News that “these findings suggest that early nurturing and warmth have long-lasting positive effects on mental health well into adulthood.”

 

So what makes a mother’s affection normal, low, or high? Psychologists participating in the study rated the mother’s affection and attention level on a five point scale ranging from “negative” to “extravagant.” This is judged by how responsive the mother was to her child’s needs and emotions evaluating the extent of warmth in that interaction.

 

Dr. Terri Apter, psychologist and tutor of Newnham College in Cambridge, ON, said to BBC News Health, “What you really want is responsiveness as well as affection – a mother who is in sync with her baby.”

 

The findings have been linked to the “happy hormone” or “caressing hormone” called Oxytocin, a brain chemical that is associated with the effects of bonding and is released during breastfeeding and other moments of closeness.

 

"Oxytocin adds [to] the perception of trust and support, and hence is very helpful in building social bonds," Maselko explains. "It's plausible that close parent-child bonds help support the neural development of the areas of the brain that make and use oxytocin, setting up the child for more effective social interactions and mental health in the future."

 

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