New research suggests that cuddled children growing up to be healthier, less depressed, kinder, more empathetic, and more productive adults.
Notre Dame professor of psychology Darcia Narvaez and two colleagues surveyed more than 600 adults. They asked about their childhood experiences. Darvaez was interested in things like how much affectionate touch did the adult receive as a child, how much free play, and what was family togetherness was like. What she found was, the adults who had positive childhood experiences evolved into adults with less anxiety and better mental health.
“These things independently, but also added up together, predicted the adults’ mental health, so they were less depressed, less anxious, and their social capacities — they were more able to take other people’s perspective. They were better at getting along with others and being open-hearted,” said Narvaez.
The research also showed that when children weren’t given things like affection, free play and a warm home environment, they turned into adults with decreased social and moral capacities.
“Sometimes parents say you are going to spoil the baby if you pick them up when they are feeling distressed. No, you can’t spoil a baby. You are actually ruining the baby if you don’t pick them up. You are ruining their development,” says Narvaez.
“Part of it is following your instincts because we as parents want to hold our children. We want to keep that child close,” she says, “follow that instinct. We want to keep the child quiet and happy because the cry is so distressing. It is on purpose, so you don’t let it happen. So follow the instinct to hold, play, interact, that is what you want to do.”