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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2011 Jul;65(7):621-5. doi: 10.1136/jech.2009.097873. Epub 2010 Jul 26.

Mother's affection at 8 months predicts emotional distress in adulthood.

Author information

1
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA. Joanna.maselko@duke.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Long-standing theory suggests that quality of the mother's (or primary caregiver's) interaction with a child is a key determinant of the child's subsequent resilience or vulnerability and has implications for health in adulthood. However, there is a dearth of longitudinal data with both objective assessments of nurturing behaviour during infancy and sustained follow-up ascertaining the quality of adult functioning.

METHODS:

We used data from the Providence, Rhode Island birth cohort of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project (mean age 34 at follow-up, final N=482) to conduct a prospective study of the association between objectively measured affective quality of the mother-infant interaction and adult mental health. Infant-mother interaction quality was rated by an observer when infants were 8 months old, and adult emotional functioning was assessed from the Symptom Checklist-90, capturing both specific and general types of distress.

RESULTS:

High levels of maternal affection at 8&emsp14;months were associated with significantly lower levels of distress in adult offspring (1/2 standard deviation; b=-4.76, se=1.7, p<0.01). The strongest association was with the anxiety subscale. Mother's affection did not seem to be on the pathway between lower parental SES and offspring distress.

CONCLUSION:

These findings suggest that early nurturing and warmth have long-lasting positive effects on mental health well into adulthood.

PMID:
20660942
PMCID:
PMC3118641
DOI:
10.1136/jech.2009.097873
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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