TUESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- The more a mother showers
her infant child with warmth and affection, the less anxiety,
hostility and general distress the child will ultimately grow up to
harbor as an adult, new research indicates.
The finding is based on the tracking of 482 children from the
age of 8 months all the way up to an average age of 34 years. The
results suggest that maternal affection at a very young age can
have a critical long-range impact on mental health and emotional
Study author Joanna Maselko of Duke University and her
colleagues report the observations in the July 27 online edition of
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
All of the study participants were part of the National
Collaborative Perinatal Project, which included people born in
Providence, R.I. The researchers first assessed the children at 8
months of age in terms of their developmental progress. In turn,
the mothers were assessed for their reaction to their child's test
results and how well they reacted to their child's exam
At the same time, the degree of maternal affection and attention
displayed toward the children was also assessed, and rated ranging
from "negative" to "extravagant" levels, the study authors
explained in a news release from the journal's publisher.
Ten percent of the mothers were deemed to have offered their
children very low levels of affection, while 85 percent had offered
a so-called "normal" degree of warmth. Six percent showered their
child with what the investigators determined was a very high amount
of maternal affection.
Flash forward a few decades, and the children -- now adults --
were assessed for feelings of anxiety, hostility and general
When stacking up maternal affection during infancy against the
emotional state of mind of the now fully grown adults, Maselko and
her colleagues found that those children who had been exposed to
the most affection had the lowest levels of anxiety, hostility and
By contrast, children who had been exposed to the least amount
of affection as infants had the highest degree of those qualities,
which can contribute to emotional instability and insecurity, the
Maternal affection may enable and promote the healthy
development of bonding and emotional attachments, which may help a
child to develop social skills that are key to coping with general
stress and anxiety, the study authors noted in the news
"These findings suggest that early nurturing and warmth have long-lasting positive effects on mental health well into adulthood," the researchers concluded in their report.
For more on infant development, visit the