Washington, October 12: Infants who have a close, intimate relationship with at least one parent are less likely to be troubled, aggressive or experience other emotional and behavioural problems when they reach school age, a study by the University of Iowa has found.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that being attached to dad is just as helpful as being close to mom.
The study bolsters the still-debated role of the influence that a parent can exercise at the earliest stages in a child’s mental and emotional development, the researchers said.
“There is a really important period when a mother or a father should form a secure relationship with their child, and that is during the first two years of life. That period appears to be critical to the child’s social and emotional development,” said Sanghag Kim, a post-doctoral researcher in psychology at the UI who collaborated with UI psychology professor Grazyna Kochanska on the study.
“At least one parent should make that investment,” Kim added.
The researchers assessed the relationship of 102 infants (15 months old) with a parent and then followed up with 86 of them when they reached age 8. Separate surveys of the parents and the child were taken at that time. The infants and parents were drawn from a broad spectrum of income, education, and race. All the couples were heterosexual.
The researchers were surprised to find out that infants who had felt attached to both parents did not enjoy additional mental and emotional advantages into childhood, compared to those who had been close to one parent.
The UI psychologists’ best explanation is that a warm, secure, and positive bond with at least one primary caregiver may be enough to meet the child’s need for security and to provide a solid foundation for development.
On the other end, the study showed that infants who had not felt secure with either parent were more likely to report worries, fears, and aggression when they reached school age.
While the trend was clear, the Iowa researchers said, they cautioned that other reasons might explain those children’s difficulties. Also, they noted, that all children fell into what psychologists would consider a normal development range, largely without clinically significant problems.
A paper detailing the study was published in the journal Child Development. (ANI)