Mother's affection at 8 months predicts emotional distress in adulthood

Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Journal of epidemiology and community health (Impact Factor: 3.5). 07/2011; 65(7):621-5. DOI: 10.1136/jech.2009.097873
Source: PubMed


Long-standing theory suggests that quality of the mother's (or primary caregiver's) interaction with a child is a key determinant of the child's subsequent resilience or vulnerability and has implications for health in adulthood. However, there is a dearth of longitudinal data with both objective assessments of nurturing behaviour during infancy and sustained follow-up ascertaining the quality of adult functioning.
We used data from the Providence, Rhode Island birth cohort of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project (mean age 34 at follow-up, final N=482) to conduct a prospective study of the association between objectively measured affective quality of the mother-infant interaction and adult mental health. Infant-mother interaction quality was rated by an observer when infants were 8 months old, and adult emotional functioning was assessed from the Symptom Checklist-90, capturing both specific and general types of distress.
High levels of maternal affection at 8&emsp14;months were associated with significantly lower levels of distress in adult offspring (1/2 standard deviation; b=-4.76, se=1.7, p<0.01). The strongest association was with the anxiety subscale. Mother's affection did not seem to be on the pathway between lower parental SES and offspring distress.
These findings suggest that early nurturing and warmth have long-lasting positive effects on mental health well into adulthood.

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    • "Furthermore, when children fail in an attempt to verbally express their emotions, they will express them by action (Thomasgard & Metz, 2004); therefore, children of mothers with mental symptoms are at higher risk of developing emotional and behavioral problems (Kahn et al., 2004). On the other hand, the Providence, Rhode Island birth cohort study found that a high level of maternal affection when the infants were 8 months old was associated with fewer symptoms of distress in the offspring 30 years later (Maselko et al., 2011). "

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    • "Problematic attachments in the first year of life have been consistently associated with adverse child health and developmental in both observational ( De Wolff & van Ijzendoorn 1997 ; Insel 1997 ; Sroufe , Egeland & Carlson 2005 ; Maselko et al . 2010 ) and experimental designs ( Bakermans - Kranenburg , van Ijzendoorn & Juffer 2003 ) . For example , inconsistent or dismissive parental responses commonly yield insecure attachment styles in children ( Bowlby 1973 ; Ainsworth et al . 1978 ) , which create risk for depressive and related forms of psychopa - thology ( Shaver , Schachner "
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