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Infancy impacts your romantic life

Interpersonal experiences with our mother during the first 12-18 months of life predict our romantic relationships later, says a new study.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2011 00:37 IST

The ability to trust, love, and resolve conflicts with loved ones is rooted in our very infancy, says a new US study. “Your interpersonal experiences with your mother during the first 12 to 18 months of life predict your behaviour in romantic relationships 20 years later,” says Jeffry A Simpson from University of Minnesota, who co-authored the study with colleagues W Andrew Collins and Jessica E Salvatore.



“Before you can remember, before you have language to describe it, and in ways you aren’t aware of, implicit attitudes get encoded into the mind,” Simpson says.



Couple

The mistreated infant becomes the defensive arguer; the baby whose mom was attentive and supportive works through problems, secure in the goodwill of the other person. “People find a coherent, adaptive way, as best as they can, to respond to their current environments based on what’s happened to them in the past,” explains Simpson.



What happens to you as a baby affects the adult you become. To prove this, Simpson, Collins and Salvatore investigated the links between mother-infant relationships and later love partnerships. Their subjects are 75 children of low-income mothers whom they’ve been assessing from birth into their early 30s.



When the children were infants, they were put into strange or stressful situations with their mothers to test how securely the pairs were bonded. Since then, the children (who are now adults) have returned regularly for assessment of their emotional development. The authors focused on their skills and resilience in working through conflicts with school peers, teenage best friends, and finally, love partners.