Parental warmth is a mental health vaccine
Psychoanalysts have long emphasized the importance of the early mother child relationship, particularly, the importance for a child of having at least one stable loving investment from at least one parent from infancy. This belief has been largely based on tens of thousands of life histories that have been studied through individual treatments. Now, an important and rather unique confirmation has come from a rare longitudinal study reported from Duke University.
In this study, the mothers of 8-month-old children were rated for the amount of affection that they demonstrated for their children. Then – 30 years later! – these early thirty-some grown-up children were evaluated in four areas: distress due to somatization (medical conditions or symptoms with a strong psychological component,) interpersonal (over)sensitivity, anxiety, and hostility/anger. The study found that children who had received higher levels of maternal affection tended to do better in all four of these critical areas of adult mental health.
Science has demonstrated that love matters! Not a great surprise to most of us, but it is always good to have scientific support for something that mothers – and fathers - have known for millennia.
Mental Health Matters! is written by clinical staff at the The Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood in Cary, the largest and most comprehensive non-profit agency providing children's mental health services in the Triangle. The Center is devoted to promoting the healthy emotional development of young children through its preschool and kindergarten programs, mental health services, and outreach programs including Lucy's Book Club. Mental Health Matters! is posted on the Carolina Parent Magazine's website, the Triangle's family resource - in print for over 21 years! And online at www.carolinaparent.com.