Who Loves Ya, Baby? Kids of Extra-Affectionate Moms Are Better Adjusted Adults, Study Says

Filed under: Development/Milestones: Babies, In The News, Weird But True, Childcare, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Social & Emotional Growth: Tweens, Social & Emotional Growth: Teens

Baby love is good for your little one. Credit: Getty Images

A loved baby is a happy baby. Turns out, that makes for a happy adult, too.

People whose mothers showered them with affection as infants are better equipped to cope with the stresses of life when they are adults, according to an article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The findings are based on one of the few studies to track participants from childhood to adulthood. Psychologists appraised the quality of the interactions between nearly 500 mothers and their 8-month-old babies, rating the amount of affection each mother gave her child, from negative to extravagant. One in 10 interactions were characterized by a low level of maternal affection, 85 percent by normal levels of affection and 6 percent by high levels of affection.

Decades later, at a mean age of 34, those grown-up babies were assessed for specific elements such as anxiety and hostility and for general levels of distress. Those whose mothers had been the most affectionate when they were babies exhibited the lowest levels of anxiety, hostility and general distress.

The difference in anxiety levels between the children of the most affectionate mothers and those whose mothers had displayed low or normal levels of affection was more than seven points. The difference was three points when measuring hostility and five points in overall distress scores. The difference held across the checklist: The more affectionate the mother had been, the lower the level of adult distress.

Experiences in very early life can influence adult health, the authors conclude, and high levels of maternal affection are likely to facilitate secure attachments and bonding, which allow children to develop effective life, coping and social skills, the authors write.

Related: Come On, Get Happy - Author Tells You How to Have More Fun

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.