One of the great joys in my life is watching my wife with our two young daughters. It is no great surprise how she showers the girls with love and affection, and that alone is good.
Now researchers from Duke University, the Harvard School of Public Health and Brown University report that such positive parenting that provides high levels of affection in early childhood has long-lasting effects on the children. The researchers studied 482 children born in Rhode Island in 1996. When the children were 8-months-old, the researchers observed and rated mother-infant interactions to measure affective quality of the mothers. The researchers then followed up 34 years later using standard emotional functioning check list.
And the children whose mothers were rated as demonstrating high levels of affection at 8 months of age showed “significantly lower levels of distress” as adults. The researchers concluded that their results “suggest that early nurturing and warmth have long-lasting positive effects on mental health into adulthood.”
The researchers speculated that high levels of maternal affection in infancy could help the babies feel more secure and aid in bonding with their parents. That in turn could lead to lower levels of distress in both childhood and later in life, they suggested.
“It is striking that a brief observation of level of maternal warmth in infancy is associated with distress in adult offspring 30 years later,” the authors wrote in BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
“These provocative findings add to the growing evidence that early childhood helps set the stage for later life experience and provide support for the notion that biological memories laid down early may alter psychological and physiological systems and produce latent vulnerabilities or resilience to problems emerging later.”
While it seems obvious that showing high levels of affection to my daughters is good for them, it’s nice to see that there is likely to be a long-lasting impact from the way my wife interacts with both our girls. Hopefully, I’m adding to that effect.
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