Research shows that preschool kids who were given lots of love and support by their parents or guardian have greater emotional stability in their childhood and teenage years. Authors of the study have linked the growth of hippocampus region of the brain with better mental health, memory formation, and learning. Shrinkage of the region leads to poor mental health and emotional instability, the study revealed.
Dr. Joan Luby, a professor of child psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, and the study leader of the research emphasizes on raising kids with lots of love and care to ensure brain development, which is crucial for mental health.
The authors of the research revealed that they did not notice any change in the hippocampus region in relation to the parents’ affection after the child reached school going age.
Luby further added that a lack of emotional support from parents does not necessarily lead to emotional disaster if the void is filled with other caregivers such as relatives or grandparents.
Previous research shows maternal affection has a strong effect on emotional development but Luby said it is unknown how the loving preschool years affect the hippocampus region and mental health in adulthood.
The majority of the caregivers in this study were women but Luby insists that the results are applicable to other caregivers as well. She and her team studied the effects of maternal emotional support on 127 children, which began in their preschool years.
People who had no connection with the children or the caregivers were asked to rate the children’s behavior in a stressful situation where the children were told not to open a gift placed within their arm’s reach. The raters observed the mothers’ and children’s behavior for 8 minutes during which the children were told to wait before opening the gift.
The children underwent brain wave scans during the research through their early teenage years. It was reported that the growth of hippocampus region in the brain of the children with supportive mothers was twice as fast as the ones with less caring parents.
During the gift situation, a supportive mother would attend to the child’s impatience and console him/her. An unsupportive mother would either speak strictly to the child or ignore him/her altogether.
Brandon Korman, the chief of neuropsychology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, supported the study and said it perfectly fits with what is known about the relation between brain development and the environment. In practice too he has observed the direct relation between the child’s behavior and the upbringing. He advises parents to strike a balance between love and strictness.
Korman acknowledged the importance of good upbringing that shapes the child’s future but a lack of it can be dealt with in adulthood through therapies and counseling.
Parents who are interested in learning to be more supportive can attend parent-child interaction sessions and other such therapies.
This research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on 25th of April.