Mother's Love Can Help Babies With Difficult Temperaments

TUESDAY Aug. 30, 2011 -- Having a secure attachment with their mother helps irritable babies respond well to unfamiliar people and situations, a new study finds.

It included 84 infants who were followed from birth to age 2. Irritability was assessed within a month of birth and was based on the infants' reactions to a series of tests, including being undressed and hearing a bell ringing. About one third of the infants were rated highly irritable and two-thirds as moderately irritable.

The infants' attachment to their mothers was assessed at 12 months and was based on their behavior with their mothers. Securely attached infants turned toward their mother when distressed, while insecurely attached infants did not.

At ages 18 to 24 months, the children's reactions to unfamiliar adults and toys were assessed by the University of Maryland researchers.

Toddlers who were highly irritable newborns were the most sociable if they had a secure attachment to their mother, but the least sociable if they were insecurely attached. The study also found that toddlers who were highly irritable newborns and had insecure attachment were least able to explore when they were toddlers.

The quality of attachment did not affect either the sociability or exploration of toddlers who were moderately irritable as newborns.

The study appears in the journal Child Development.

The findings suggest that measures to promote attachment between child and mother may be especially important for highly irritable newborns, researchers said.

More information

Zero to Three outlines infants' behavior and development.

Posted: August 2011


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