Now another group of studies, led by Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia Narvaez, confirms earlier work suggesting that children who get more positive touch and affection during infancy turn out to be kinder, more intelligent and to care more about others
Researchers found that kids who were held more by their parents, whose cries received quick responses in infancy and who were disciplined without corporal punishment were more empathic — that is, they were better able to understand the minds of others — later in life.
Given that highly affectionate parenting practices are similar to the practices anthropologists believe parents used during the thousands of years that humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies, it’s likely that they are closely matched with what a developing baby’s brain naturally expects
Consider the way babies instinctively cry when put to sleep alone. In the early human environment, a child would never have slept more than arm’s reach from his parents or other caregivers. Lone sleeping may elicit a stress response in the baby because it’s not the “safe” environment that the brain is programmed to expect.
"What’s been studied most is responsivity," she says, referring to the way parents respond to their babies and act accordingly, for example, noticing when they are about to cry and reacting appropriately to subtle positive and negative signals about what they want. "[Responsivity] is clearly linked with moral development. It helps foster an agreeable personality, early conscience development and greater prosocial behavior."
"Touch in the first 6 months is the most important foundation for development. Babies are born about 6 months before they can do the simplest thing such as sit up on their own. They are born in effect prematurely. Why? Because our brain is so large for our size that women’s bodies could not adapt to having the large pelvis required to take us to term without giving up being able to walk and run. In traditional societies, babies are not separated from their mothers in the first 6 months of life. They are kept in a sling and/or hip all the time including all night. The traditional baby is not however the centre of the mother’s life, it is simply attached to it. Traditional babies are thus constantly in motion, as they were in the womb. They are highly stimulated by witnessing their mother’s life. They are touched all the time. They hear adults talking all the time"
- Rob Paterson
"…humans are born 6 months premature! Our brain size is so large relatively that we have to be born before our heads are too big for the mother’s birth canal. Critical then for our development is to recognize the babies need to stay in a womb type of environment."
- Rob Paterson
"Human babies are especially needy since humans are born months earlier than other animals because of head size and getting through the birth canal. Other mammals can move around at birth or soon after. It takes a human baby around 9 months for that capacity to develop. Meanwhile, the baby’s body/brain expects an external womb for that time period if it is to grow optimally (with good health, intelligence and wellbeing)."
- Darcia Narvaez
Oops, I already snipppet this: meeting the brain’s early expectations