Modern parenting may hinder brain development, researcher claims

January 7, 2013 by Susan Guibert, University of Notre Dame

Modern parenting may hinder brain development, research shows
(Medical Xpress)—Social practices and cultural beliefs of modern life are preventing healthy brain and emotional development in children, according to an interdisciplinary body of research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame.

"Life outcomes for American youth are worsening, especially in comparison to 50 years ago," says Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology who specializes in moral development in children and how early can influence .

"Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will 'spoil' it," Narvaez says.

This new research links certain early, nurturing parenting practices—the kind common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies—to specific, healthy emotional outcomes in adulthood, and has many experts rethinking some of our modern, cultural child-rearing "norms."

"Breast-feeding infants, responsiveness to crying, almost constant touch and having multiple adult caregivers are some of the nurturing ancestral that are shown to positively impact the developing brain, which not only shapes personality, but also helps physical health and moral development," says Narvaez.

Studies show that responding to a baby's needs (not letting a baby "cry it out") has been shown to influence the development of conscience; positive touch affects stress reactivity, and empathy; free play in nature influences social capacities and aggression; and a set of supportive caregivers (beyond the mother alone) predicts IQ and ego resilience as well as empathy.

The United States has been on a downward trajectory on all of these care characteristics, according to Narvaez. Instead of being held, infants spend much more time in carriers, car seats and strollers than they did in the past. Only about 15 percent of mothers are breast-feeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970.

Whether the corollary to these modern practices or the result of other forces, an epidemic of anxiety and depression among all age groups, including young children; rising rates of aggressive behavior and delinquency in young children; and decreasing empathy, the backbone of compassionate, moral behavior, among college students, are shown in research.

According to Narvaez, however, other relatives and teachers also can have a beneficial impact when a child feels safe in their presence. Also, early deficits can be made up later, she says.

"The right brain, which governs much of our self-regulation, creativity and empathy, can grow throughout life. The right brain grows though full-body experience like rough-and-tumble play, dancing or freelance artistic creation. So at any point, a parent can take up a creative activity with a child and they can grow together."

Explore further: Child rearing practices of distant ancestors foster morality, compassion in kids, research says

More information: ccf.nd.edu/symposium/2012-symposium-presentations/

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3 comments

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freethinking
1 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
Listening to so called experts is a part of the problem.
Having governments deciding what is best for families is part of the problems.

isn't it funny that 50 or so years ago is when Parents started following experts in child rearing.
JijiDuru
3 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
Listening to so called experts is a part of the problem.
Having governments deciding what is best for families is part of the problems.

isn't it funny that 50 or so years ago is when Parents started following experts in child rearing.


Your intentions might be good, in tone with the article, however your methods and attitude seem to be republican; hint - mildly retarded, especially when it comes to "governments" line.
namenameson
not rated yet Jan 08, 2013
More BS about "the decline of society".
"Studies show that ... has been shown"
good writing.
"the kind common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies"
Zeitgeist. Romanticising that time which we know f. all about. So done with this sort of nonsense.
"The right brain, which governs much of our self-regulation, creativity and empathy"
Lateralization of brain function has been thoroughly debunked. The brain does NOT work this way, on the whole.
/
This science is real soft.

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