Embrace Joy Chapter 8

Maternal bond

A Mother's Nurturing: A 2012 study revealed that when children are nurtured as toddlers, they end up with more tissue density in their brain. Specifically, the hippocampi--brain areas key to learning and regulating stress--were more developed in school-age kids whose mothers displayed nurturing behavior when the kids were toddlers.


Mom's Love and the Young Brain

Does maternal nurturing help shape the brain of young children? A research study published in 2012 shows a powerful connection between soothing maternal behavior and the development of the brain's hippocampus, a center for learning and memory tasks. As part of a larger study of childhood depression, a group of children between ages 4 and 7 were studied in a stressful situation. They entered a room with their mom, and inside was a gift-wrapped box. Each child was told that he or she could have the present, but could not unwrap it until mom finished up some paperwork. As the mother took eight minutes to complete some papers, researchers observed her behavior. They noted that some moms were reassuring and calmly urged the child to be patient about opening the present. Other moms scolded children who expressed frustration that they couldn't open the present, and some ignored the child's negative reactions. READ MORE

The children returned to the research site three years later, and the researchers took scans of their brains. Those children whose mothers had been positive and supportive during the tense gift-opening scene had significantly larger hippocampi than those whose moms had shown frustration or apathy. The tissue density in each hippocampus was nearly 10% larger in the nurtured kids, a dramatic difference. LESS


Help for Mothers

Maternal blues aren't restricted to the first few months of a baby's life. Many women have depressive symptoms well into their kids' school years, especially if they are poor. Approximately 20% of mothers in low socioeconomic groups have symptoms of depression, according to a 2010 study by Yale University researchers. These moms are less likely to play or read with their children. Their behavior may be inconsistent, changing as the mom's depression symptoms come and go, which is destabilizing for the children. READ MORE

The Yale Study focused on mothers from poor communities who had depressive symptoms. People in such communities typically have higher levels of stress to begin with, and are not accustomed to seeking out medical help for depression. The researchers offered on-site therapy sessions to these women, a type of care that wouldn't typically be available in their community. (In a control group, moms with depressive symptoms were assigned a social worker and referred to outside specialists.) Both groups showed improvement, but the group who had access to the on-site therapy sessions more significantly reduced the ratings of problem behavior in their young children, the researchers said. The easy access to treatment gave them a forum for discussing their feelings about their children's behavior and for learning about methods for coping with those feelings. LESS

theVisualMD Wishes to Thank our Scientific Collaborators:

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