Presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Children and Families in the US state of Indiana, the findings run counter to commonly accepted, decades-old parenting practices, which espouse a tough love philosophy, such as letting babies, cry themselves back to sleep.
Darcia Narvaez, a Notre Dame professor of psychology, says, 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.
The indirect result of these misguided parenting methods, researchers state, is anxiety and depression among children , rising rates of aggressive and delinquent behaviour and decreasing empathy among college students. Instead of being held, infants spend more time in carriers, car seats and strollers, the authors point out, while only 15 per cent mothers breast feed by 12 months.
To reverse the trend, researchers advise responding to baby’s cries, an action that can positively influence the development of their conscience. Constant touch can also impact the way babies react to stress, impulse control and empathy development.