Cuddling and closeness by a doting parent or parents in infancy may make for better-adjusted kids later on, new research suggests.
The study found that infants who formed a close bond with even one parent were less likely to have emotional or behavioural problems when they reach school age compared to children who didn't experience such relationships.
Developing a special closeness with a parent appears to provide these benefits and it can be with either the mother or father, according to the University of Iowa researchers. They said their findings provide further evidence about the influence that parents have at the earliest stages of a child's mental and emotional development.
"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," Sanghag Kim, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology, said in a university news release. "At least one parent should make that investment."
The findings are especially good news for single mothers and stay-at-home fathers, two increasingly common types of parents in the United States.
How the study was done
In their study, Kim looked at the relationships that 86 15-month-old infants had with a parent and then followed the children until age eight.
They were surprised to find that infants who had a close bond with both parents did not have additional mental and emotional benefits into childhood, compared to those who established a close bond with one parent.
This indicates that a warm, secure and positive connection with at least one parent is enough to meet a child's needs for security and to provide a solid foundation for emotional and behavioural development, the researchers suggested.
The study was published online recently in the journal Child Development.
When hugs are not enough
The Nemours Foundation has more about bonding with your baby.
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