New study: children’s brains function better when they can see their mothers

The new study published in Psychological Science was reported in Pacific Standard.

Excerpt:

For little kids, seeing mom or dad nearby is a calming influence, maybe the difference between between perfect calm and a full-bore freakout. It’s as if having a trusted caregiver nearby transforms children from scared toddlers into confident adolescents. And in a way, a new report suggests, that’s what having mom around does to a kid’s brain.

When they’re first born and for years after, infants and young children can’t do a whole lot by themselves. They can’t eat on their own, they aren’t very good at managing their emotions, and it takes a while for them to learn how to dress themselves. Most children figure it out eventually, but in the meantime they need their parents to do a lot of that stuff for them. All the while, their brains are changing, too. Well into adolescence, kids’ brains undergoanatomical and physiological changes that affect the way we think and act.

[…]Young children’s brains responded differently based on whether they were looking at their mothers or strangers. In particular, their brains showed signs of positive amygdala-PFC connections when viewing pictures of strangers, but negative connections when viewing pictures of their mothers, suggesting more mature and stable brain function—and likely more mature and stable behavior, at least when moms were around. In contrast, tweens and teens had negative connections whether they were looking at their mothers or strangers. In other words, looking at pictures of their mothers made young children’s brains look a little more like those of adolescents.

The companion behavioral experiment backed up that thinking—young children made around 20 percent fewer errors when their mothers were present than when they weren’t, while there was no difference for adolescents. That combined with the fMRI results to suggest that mothers—and likely other caregivers—can provide an external source of mental regulation that young children won’t develop until later in life, the authors write in Psychological Science.

In view of the recent triumphs for gay marriage advocates, I think it’s worth remembering that gay marriage, like single motherhood, is not the best we can do for children. I think it’s a bad enough situation when the husband dies and leaves his children to be raised by the mother. That’s hard, but it’s not immoral. On the other hand, I think that deliberately choosing to deprive a child of his or her mother or father IS immoral. It’s child abuse, in my opinion. And that goes for gay marriage as well as “single motherhood by choice”. I also oppose frivolous divorce (“frivorce”), which is very popular in a nation that views structured courtship as “boring” and no-fault divorce as a woman’s right.

Previously, I blogged about another study that showed the importance of moms for young children.

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

I have a very good feminist non-Christian friend who sometimes comments here. I once asked her about marriage and she said that her skills would be wasting on raising children. I explained to her my view that a mother needs to stay at home with the children, and that is more important work. I expect my future wife to read all kinds of books on child care and to give the child attention, nutrition, exercise and play so that the child will grow up to be an effective Christian. Maybe I need to be clear. I am not going to spend hundreds of thousands per child with just any woman. I need a woman who can produce influential and effective Christians who will engage in the public square. And we do not entrust that job to just anyone. We want educated, professional women who are willing to be stay-at-home moms when it’s necessary to do that – for the sake of the children.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and at least a couple of years of employment. Then she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years, at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children. It’s not a waste of her talent to make the next William Lane Craig, or the next Marsha Blackburn, or the next Doug Axe, or the next Edith Hollan Jones.

7 thoughts on “New study: children’s brains function better when they can see their mothers”

  1. No, it is certainly not a waste of a woman’s talents to raise children, no matter how many her talents are or how much the world values her skills in the workplace. Did people think it was a waste of Michelangelo’s talents to paint and sculpt masterpieces? Of course not. Quite the contrary, in fact. Yet the children we raise are more of an irreplaceable masterpiece than anything ever made by man. Pouring our lives into making our children well-rounded, intelligent, moral, accomplished, informed, articulate, influential, and, above all, followers of Jesus Christ is a very important task indeed.

    Like

  2. “I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and at least a couple of years of employment. Then she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years, at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children.”

    I realize this is all hypothetical (get busy, WK – man up! I’m joking! :-)), but don’t forget the homeschool option. Obviously, you are way too intelligent to forfeit your children to the godless government schools, but your wife can homeschool, regardless of degree level, and do so most effectively. (http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/200908100.asp)

    I suggest you marry a woman of wisdom first, and pay attention to degrees second. It does not take a graduate degree to conclude that abortion is moral murder. But, in our post-shame culture, you will find a lot of women with graduate degrees who think abortion is just fine. And if a woman is anything but passionately pro-life, then why exactly would you want to conceive children with her?!? (That’s just one example amongst many.) God bless!

    Like

    1. I want her to homeschool them. But I am open to private schools and even public schools.

      I require the graduate degree because I offer a lot, and I expect a lot. I want my kids to go to graduate school so they can make a difference. The more she knows, the more she can shepherd them through it, with worldview intact. I am tired of losing the culture war.

      Like

      1. You don’t need a graduate degree to win the spiritual war. (And, this, from someone who has 3 of them.) But, I do agree that, in your case, you might be “unequally yoked” (in an educational sense, not a Christian one) if she doesn’t have one. I’ve seen your list of vetting questions, and she will need at least 3 Ph.D.’s to answer half of them. :-)

        You need to re-think public schools for K-12. That culture war was lost a long time ago, Brother. You have no idea of the insidiousness of the liberal propaganda and materialism in them. Your kids will be so smart that they will get, as a minimum, their first university degree by the time they graduate homeschool at the age of 17. Government schools will only hold them back – unless they aren’t too smart. :-)

        But, if you want them to be bored all day long, have to put up with teaching to the median, be influenced by the least common denominator of their peers, be generally anti-social (compared with homeschoolers), AND be sold on the virtues of having two mommies, then maybe the government schools are right for you. :-) But, it’s not like the old days, when even the a-theists had some thinking ambition. Final nail in the coffin: have you interacted with the New A-theists lately?!? :-)

        Like

  3. Wow thank you for sharing this! Its great to know the evidences from all these studies collobrating traditional idea of marriage and parenting

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s