Sensitive Caregiving Plays an Important Role in Adulthood

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Children’s experiences in their first few years are important for how they develop later on. Socially, academically, you name it. A new study says the style of parenting a child receives in the first three years of life is linked to success nearly 30 years down the line.

Researchers at the universities of Delaware, Minnesota and Illinois say sensitive caregiving plays a role decades later in a person’s academic and career performance, as well as their romantic and social relationships.

Sensitive caregiving is defined as “The extent to which a parent responds to a child’s signals appropriately and promptly, is positively involved during interactions with the child, and provides a secure base for the child’s exploration of the environment.” Basically, it is being an attentive and involved parent and treating children as individuals.

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The researchers drew from an earlier study that looked at whether sensitive parenting had any lasting benefit as the child grew, up through age 15. No surprise: The answer was yes. The new study’s authors wanted to take that concept further — all the way into adulthood.

The findings have been a gold mine for child development research and gave the new study’s authors the chance to see how parenting in those first three years can have lifelong effects.

Lee Raby, the main author, said, “Investments in early parent-child relationships may result in long-term returns that accumulate across individuals’ lives. Success in relationships and academics represents the foundation for a healthy society.”

The study’s authors say they plan to take the research even further: seeing how a person’s earliest experiences affect how they interact with their own children.

© 2014 Vimala McClure