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31 January 2006

Divorce damages infants too

A California study has found that babies who spend nights at the different homes of separated or divorced parents have problems making secure attachments to their parents.

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A California study has found that babies who spend nights at the different homes of separated or divorced parents have problems making secure attachments to their parents.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Mills College and the Early Childhood Mental Health Program looked at 145 babies and found 66 percent of 12- to 18-month old babies who had overnight visits at different homes had disorganized attachments with their parents, compared to babies living in intact or separated homes who saw their fathers only during daytime visits.

Disorganized babies don't trust their parents
"Disorganized infants have repeated experiences with attachment figures in which proximity and physical contact are severely compromised, and there is a breakdown in strategies they might have used to signal parents of their distress, and seek contact and comfort. Thus, disorganized babies could not cope with separations and reunions with the parent in the lab setting, and did not trust their parents as a resource to handle stress," says a news release about the study.

Overnight visits were not the sole factor affecting the babies' attachments. Other important factors included: the mother's ability to protect her baby from the stress of the parents' separation; the parents' ability to communicate and cooperate about their baby's well being; and the extent of conflict between the parents.

Keep your problems away from the baby
The researchers note it's important for parents to keep their problems away from their babies. Parents who are divorced or separated also need to pay attention to their baby's behaviour.

Possible signs that a baby is having problems with overnight visits at the different homes of divorced or separated parents include noticeable behavioural changes such as tantrums or an inability to sleep at night.

The study authors suggest parents start with trial overnight visits and adjust those according to how well their baby is responding. – (HealthScout News)

Read more:
Childhood pain spurs suicide attempts
Getting divorced? Soften the blow for your kids

 
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