Early Child-Parent Bond Leads To Positive Emotional Development

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A new study by scientists at the University of Iowa (UI) has determined that parental bonding early on could result in behavioral and emotional benefits for the child.

The study came about from the group´s interest in studying the attachment theory, an important topic in research regarding social and emotional development. In particular, researchers observed that a close relationship between child and parents was less likely to lead to aggressive, troubled or other types of negative emotional behavior during childhood. Interestingly enough, the child only had to feel intimate with one parent to have positive results. The findings, published in the journal Child Development, showcase the importance and impact of parents in a child´s life in the beginning stages of development.

“There is a really important period when a mother or a father should form a secure relationship with their child, and that is during the first two years of life. That period appears to be critical to the child´s social and emotional development,” noted Sanghag Kim, a post-doctoral researcher in psychology at the UI, in a prepared statement. “At least one parent should make that investment.”

The study included observation of 102 infants, who were around 15 months of age, along with one parent of the infant. The scientists then followed up with the parent-child pairings when the child turned eight years old, conducting separate surveys with the child and either the mother or father. The participants´ backgrounds were varied in terms of education, income and race but all were in a heterosexual relationship with their partner.

Apart from observations and surveys with the parent and child, the team of investigators also obtained feedback from teachers who instructed the children in classroom settings. They polled the teachers’ opinions on the child´s inner emotions and outward displays of emotions. They found that the perspectives from the teachers and children were similar in content, while the parents´ evaluations were a bit different.

“Parents and teachers have different perspectives,” remarked Kim in the statement. “They observe children in different contexts and circumstances. That is why we collected data from many informants who know the child.”

Based on the findings, the scientists saw that there was no significant benefit for children who were close to both parents as opposed to children who were close to only one parent. They believe that a positive, secure and warm relationship with one caregiver provides a strong enough foundation for the child´s development. The results of the study could be beneficial for caregivers who may be single mothers or stay-at-home dads.

“Some people think the father is not good enough to be the primary caregiver,” continued Kim in the statement. “Our data show otherwise.”

On the other hand, for children who did not feel comfortable with either parent, these kids showed a mix of aggression, fear and worry when they reached school age. Researchers believe that, apart from the weak relationship with caregivers, there may be other factors at play. The scientists plan to study the issue in further studies, specifically exploring the impact of day-care providers to determine whether these centers offer important emotional support for infants or act more as a barrier for children to bond with parents.