Of Babies and Kisses and Hugs

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Babies and Kisses and HugsAs a new grandfather of a one-year-old grandson, I have had the good fortune to both observe and participate in my grandson's development and interaction with his mother over the last year. While my wife and I raised two daughters, it has been a long time and I had forgotten how "yummy" babies are. They are soft, plump, warm, and wonderful to hold, kiss, and hug.

However, I am old enough to remember a time when conventional wisdom said that it is better to let a crying baby just cry. The explanation was something along the lines of, "If you pick the baby up, the infant will become 'spoiled.'" Along the same lines, it was believed that if you hold a baby too much they will always demand to be picked up and held. I suppose that, in this case too, the idea was not to spoil the baby.

Incredibly, there are people who still cling to this way of thinking today.

Thanks to more modern psychological and medical thinking, long-standing theory suggests that the quality of a mother's interaction with her baby is important for the child's becoming a resilient and healthy adult. Up until now, there was a lack of longitudinal research to support this theory. A longitudinal study is one in which the same sample of people are followed by psychologists over many decades.

The results of a recent study in the, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, July 2010, showed that people who’d enjoyed the most affection from their mothers as infants had the lowest levels of anxiety and distress as adults.

In this study, more than four hundred infants and their mothers were carefully studied and followed from 8 months of age until age 34. Those babies who were treated with warmth, cuddling and kissing by their mothers at 8 months and older were found to become better adjusted, more confident, less anxious and less stressed individuals at age 34.

So, my advice to all of you parents out there is to cuddle, hold, kiss and nurture your babies and children as long as they will permit you to do so. In fact, husbands and wives and extended families, all of you need to hug, kiss and show warmth. Perhaps it would be a more peaceful world if people hugged instead of shot off their guns.

Your comments are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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