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Attachment With One Parent During Infancy Beneficial For Child: Study

Update Date: Oct 12, 2012 09:14 AM EDT

Want your child to grow up happy and be socially adjusted? Bond well with them during their infancy, says a new study.

The study by researchers from University of Iowa has found that if children have an intimate relationship with a parent during their infancy period, they grow up to be less troubled, aggressive or experience other emotional and behavioral problems.

The findings of the study reveal that a young child needs to feel particularly secure with either of the parents in order to be emotionally stable, and a bond with the dad is just as helpful as one with the mother.

"There is a really important period when a mother or a father should form a secure relationship with their child, and that is during the first two years of life. That period appears to be critical to the child's social and emotional development," says Sanghag Kim, a post-doctoral researcher in psychology at the UI who collaborated with UI psychology professor Grazyna Kochanska on the study.

"At least one parent should make that investment."

For the study, the researchers observed and analyzed the relationship between 102 infants (15 months old) with a parent and then followed up with 86 of them, when they turned 8.

During the follow up, researchers took separate surveys of the parents and the child and factors like income, education, and race were considered by the researchers. All the couples were heterosexual.

Also, a feedback on the children was drawn from their teachers wherein the teachers gave insight about the child's inner emotions, such as worry or sadness, to more outward displays, such as disobedience and aggression.

The researchers found that the children's reports were a lot similar to the feed back given by the teachers. However, it differed from the parents' evaluations.

"Parents and teachers have different perspectives," Kim explains.

"They observe children in different contexts and circumstances. That is why we collected data from many informants who know the child."

A surprising finding of the study was that children who were close to both parents did not seem to enjoy any additional mental and emotional advantages into childhood in comparison to those who were close to one of the parents.

The explanation given by the UI psychologists for the same was that perhaps a warm, secure, and positive bond with at least one primary caregiver may be enough to meet the child's need for security and to provide a solid foundation for development.

This study could be a good news for single parents while Kim says that either parent can serve as a secure, attachment figure for the infant, fulfilling the needs of closeness and support to promote the child's healthy emotional growth.

"Some people think the father is not good enough to be the primary caregiver," says Kim, who earned his doctorate in sociology at the UI last year.

"Our data show otherwise."

Also, the study findings revealed that children who did not feel secure with either parent during infancy were reportedly more aggressive, worried and fearful when they reached school age.

While the study observations clearly reveal the pattern, the researcher warn that those children who are reportedly worried and aggressive could have been influenced by other factors.

The study was published in the journal Child Development.

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