Sensitive parenting makes successful adults

A new study to make parents think twice about how they raise their kids
Parenting styles

A study out of the Universities of Minesota and Illonois in the U.S. has shown that the type of parenting that takes place in the first three years of a child’s life impacts not only on their childhood, but has an ongoing effect into their adolescence and adulthood.

The study found that a sensitive caregiving style improves social competence and academic achievement.

“The study indicates that the quality of children’s early caregiving experiences has an enduring and ongoing role in promoting successful social and academic development into the years of maturity,” commented Lee Raby, the study’s lead researcher.

The researchers defined “Sensitive Caregiving” as when a parent responds quickly and appropriately to their child’s signals, interacts positively with their child, and provides a secure base for the child to explore their environment.

To conduct the longitudinal study, the researchers followed 243 individuals from birth to age 32. The participants were all born into poverty and came from a range of ethnic backgrounds. During the children’s first three years of life observations were made four times on the interactions between mothers with their children. Additionally, the children’s teachers reported on their peer group functioning and academic achievement during childhood and adolescence. Finally, during their 20s and early 30s, the study participants completed interviews discussing their romantic relationships and their educational achievements.

The study’s results showed that the children who experienced more sensitive caregiving grew into adults who consistently functioned better socially and academically.

The study noted that although the children were born into poverty, which influenced their development, the long-term influence of the sensitive caregiving they received during childhood had a greater impact on their academic achievement.

“Altogether, the study suggests that children’s experiences with parents during the first few years of life have a unique role in promoting social and academic functioning – not merely during the first two decades of life, but also during adulthood,” said Raby.

“This suggests that investments in early parent-child relationships may result in long-term returns that accumulate across individuals’ lives. Because individuals’ success in relationships and academics represents the foundation for a healthy society, programs and initiatives that equip parents to interact with their children in a sensitive manner during the first few years of their children’s life can have long-term benefits for individuals, families, and society at large.”

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