Maternal Affection in Infancy Predicts Distress in Adulthood

Higher maternal affection levels at 8 months linked to lower distress levels three decades later
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Higher levels of maternal affection during infancy are associated with lower levels of emotional distress in adulthood, according to a study published online July 26 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

In a prospective study, Joanna Maselko, Ph.D., of Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues used data from the Providence, R.I. birth cohort of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project to evaluate the link 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, with adult emotional functioning examined using the Symptom Checklist-90.

The researchers found that high levels of affection between mothers and their 8-month-old infants were associated with significantly lower levels of distress among the adult offspring (mean age at follow-up, 34 years), the strongest association being with the anxiety subscale. While lower parental socioeconomic status was associated with lower levels of maternal affection, the researchers found that the mother's affection did not mediate lower parental socioeconomic status and offspring distress.

"The findings from this study show that objectively measured levels of nurturing and affection experienced during infancy are predictive of adult mental health three decades later," the authors write.

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