Child Development 101: Nothing Better Than a Mother’s Love
As children celebrate and honor moms on Mother's Day this Sunday, they may also want to thank them for their hugs and encouragement during the early years. A new study shows that a mother's early nurturing can have an impact on how children's brains develop.
Child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered that children who were nurtured by their mothers when they were young had a larger hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is key to learning, memory forming, and responding to stress.
Researchers reviewed brain scans of 92 children, ages 7 to 10, who were part of another study on preschool depression. In the previous study, conducted 10 years ago, parents were rated by observers on how well they nurtured their toddlers. The results of the latest brain-imaging study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that mentally healthy children who were well-nurtured had a 10 percent larger hippocampus than children whose mothers were not as nurturing.
"This study validates something that seems to be intuitive, which is just how important nurturing parents are to creating adaptive human beings," says Joan L. Luby, the lead author and a professor of child psychiatry.
If hugs and support are beneficial to a child's development, could spanking cause detrimental effects? Yes, according to a Canadian study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba reviewed two decades of research on spanking and found that it can cause developmental damage, including cognitive impairment, and may lower a child's IQ. Their review also found that children who are spanked are more likely to be aggressive, depressed, anti-social and use drugs and alcohol later in life.
Joan Durant, who co-authored the study, noted in news reports: "There are no studies that show any long-term positive outcomes from physical punishment.
"What we're hoping is that physicians will take that message and do more to counsel parents around this and to help them understand that physical punishment isn't getting them where they want to go," she adds.
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