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News

Motherly Love Reduces Adult Stress

28/07/2010

New research from the US has suggested that the affection shown by mothers to their babies reduces anxiety in adulthood.

By James Tweedie

Psychologist Professor Joanna Maselko of Duke University in North Carolina published the results of the long-term study of 482 children in the US state of Rhode Island in the July issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

It examined theinteractions between mothers and their eight month-old infants, andthen revisited the children in adulthood to conduct psychologicalevaluations

Observed maternal affection was graded on a scale between 'negative' to 'extravagant'and found that those children who who had received the most affection had the lowest levels of anxiety, hostility and general distress in adulthood.

The researchers were hoping to discover if strong emotional ties in childhood helped in dealing with problems in later life.

Previous studies were based solely on childhood memories and information gathered during early years.

Among the group found that ten per cent of the mothers displayed very low levels of affection toward their children, 85 per cent showed a "normal" degree of affection and six per cent showered their children with excess amounts of affection.

Researchers were able to more than half of the childhood subjects in adulthood - at an average age of 34 - and carried out interviews and psychological profiles of them.

They found a strong link between motherly love and sound mental health.

Prof Maselko and her colleagues said that those who had received the most affection had the lowest levels of anxiety, hostility and distress.

They wrote: "It is striking that a brief observation of level of maternal warmth in infancy is associated with distress in adult offspring 30 years later."

The result were the same across different socio-economic groups.

However, the researchers did not find a significant relationship between low levels of mothers' affection and elevated levels of distress.

They said that high levels of maternal affection were likely to foster secure attachments and bonding, which not only lower distress but may help children develop effective life, social and coping skills.

The paper concluded that child-rearing was important to the mental health of society as a whole.

It stated: "Ultimately, should findings from this study be replicated, they suggest that a combination of strategies, which empower families, improve access to high-quality childcare and provide targeted interventions to those at risk, is needed to improve overall population mental health."





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