24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
Fax: (361)578-5500
Regular Hours: M-Fri 8am - 5pm
Every 3rd Thurs of the Month - Extended Hours Until 7 pm

Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
Kids With Autism Can Really Benefit From ExerciseFDA Approves First New Children's ADHD Drug in 10 YearsWhy Are ER Wait Times Getting Longer for Kids in Mental Health Crisis?About 40,000 U.S. Children Have Lost a Parent to COVID-19Is Empathy Born in Mom's First Hugs?Adding in Stem Cell Therapy Helps Beat a Common Childhood LeukemiaWhat Will Summer Camp Look Like This Year?When Will America's Kids Get Their COVID Vaccines?1 in 4 Parents Won't Vaccinate Their Kids Against COVID-19: PollEven in a Pandemic, Child Vision Tests Are CrucialPfizer Says Its COVID Vaccine Is Very Effective in Kids as Young as 12Secondhand Smoke Is Sending Kids to the ERDrug Shows Promise Against Rare Condition That Stunts Kids' GrowthWhen Coal-Fired Power Plants Close, Kids With Asthma Breathe EasierAnother Study Finds COVID Doesn't Spread in Schools With Proper SafeguardsNearly Half of U.S. Schools Now Offer In-Person LearningLockdowns Gave Boost to Type 1 Diabetes Control in KidsWildfire Smoke Can Send Kids With Asthma to the ERPandemic Has Many Kids Struggling With Weight IssuesLab-Made Heart Valves Can Grow Along With Youngest Heart PatientsSome Kids With Type 1 Diabetes Face High Risk of Severe COVID-19Virtual Learning Has Taken a Toll on Kids' & Parents' Mental HealthCDC Says 3 Feet of Social Distancing Now OK in Most ClassroomsWhich Kids' Sports Have Higher Odds for Head Injury?Social Distancing Probably Stopped 2020 Outbreak of Paralyzing Disorder in KidsAHA News: What Parents Should Know About Rare But Scary COVID-19-Related IllnessSchool Dental Care Program Could Cut Cavities in Half: StudySocial Media, Binge Eating Often Go Together for KidsStressed and Distracted, Kids and Their Teachers Say Virtual Learning Isn't WorkingSports Position Doesn't Affect Risk of Concussion-Linked CTE IllnessPandemic Putting Added Strain on Parents of Kids With CancerDogs and Kids Are 'In Sync,' Study ShowsTeachers Main Drivers of School COVID Outbreaks, So Vaccinations Needed: StudyTips to Keep Young Athletes Injury-FreeMental Illness in Childhood Could Mean Worse Physical Health Decades LaterKids' Robust Immune Systems May Shield Them From COVID-19: StudyFertility Treatments Might Affect Kids' Growth, But Not for LongMom's Heart Health While Pregnant Could Influence Her Child's Health for YearsPandemic Has Affected Kids' Dental Health: PollNew Rabies Prevention Treatment Also Works in Kids: StudyWhen Will Kids Get the COVID Vaccines?U.S. Schools Can Reopen, With Safeguards in Place: CDCFetal Surgery Is Changing Lives for Kids With Spina BifidaKids Who Got Flu Shot Had Milder COVID Symptoms: StudyVery Little Spread of Coronavirus at Kids' Day Camps: StudyWhen Kids Misbehave, 'Verbal Reasoning' Can Sometimes BackfireVaccines Saved 37 Million Lives, Mostly Children, Over Past Two DecadesAnchor It! Toppling TVs, Furniture Can Injure and Kill KidsWhy Do Black Children Get Fewer Scans When They're Seen in ERs?Pandemic May Be Affecting How Parents Feed Their Kids
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses
Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)

Is Empathy Born in Mom's First Hugs?

HealthDay News
by By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Apr 5th 2021

new article illustration

MONDAY, April 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Show your baby your love, and you'll get a kinder, gentler adult child as your reward, a new study suggests.

More than 20 years ago, researchers in Israel began studying the impact on newborns of time spent in physical contact with their mothers.

The investigators followed these infants, born in the mid- to late-1990s, for two decades.

Now, their latest results -- based on nearly 100 young adults -- show that the maternal contact received all those years ago had a measurable impact on social brain functioning decades later, and the ability to empathize and relate to others.

"What proximity to the mother's body did was enabling mother and infants to be more in tune, more in sync with one another throughout the 20 years of their development. That synchrony in turn sensitized the brain to be better able to empathize with the emotions of others," said study author Ruth Feldman. She is a professor of developmental social neuroscience at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel with a joint appointment at Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn.

The study included three categories of babies: full-term healthy infants who could easily have contact with their moms; preemies who were incubated and for at least a couple of weeks could not have physical contact with their mothers; and more stable preemies whose moms committed to hold them, skin-to-skin, for at least an hour a day for at least 14 consecutive days.

That third group of babies would otherwise have had limited physical contact with their mothers during the study, but their mom's warmth took the place of the incubator for those hours, Feldman said.

"We believed that proximity to the mother's body would be beneficial for the children for a variety of reasons, for the attachment, for the self-regulation, just like any other mammalian young that needs all the provisions that are in the mother's body and physical proximity," Feldman said.

The researchers periodically checked in with the children and their families and assessed their interactions, their "mother-child social synchrony," starting with nonverbal cues and responses early on.

Over time, mothers and children built more complex abilities to see the other person's side, and allowing the person to have their opinion, Feldman said. "You see adult mother-children interactions that are positive and mutual, and they're both sitting on the couch and they're laughing together," she noted.

In early adulthood, they assessed the grown children's brains.

"What we looked for in the brain was the brain's ability to empathize with the different feelings of others, to empathize with the other person's sadness and distress, but also empathize with another person's joy," Feldman said.

The areas of the brain that were specifically sensitized were the amygdala and the insula, she said. Feldman described the amygdala as a center of non-conscious identification of emotions, and the insula as an area where you integrate signals from your own body with signals from another person's emotional state.

"Those two areas were sensitized by the life-long synchrony to function better, to be better able to have empathy with others," Feldman said.

The study adds to the data that the early years of life are profoundly important, said Dr. Michael Yogman, a pediatrician at Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts. He called the research "groundbreaking."

Parents become more sensitive to their baby's cues when they're regularly in direct contact, even if it's not skin-to-skin, said Yogman, past chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on psychosocial aspects of child and family health.

"That begins to synchronize biorhythms, circadian rhythms, hormonal variation … and the host of changes in the brain that [Feldman] documents," Yogman said.

Yet even for preemies who did not receive this type of contact in those early weeks of life, when they went home to loving, comforting parents, they still did well, he noted.

"So that speaks to the resilience, all is not lost, but we're learning more and more about high-quality care early on, that parenting really matters in these early years," Yogman said.

Though the study didn't focus on fathers' synchrony with children, Yogman said he thinks when fathers are engaged early on, the impact can be quite similar.

Feldman agreed. When fathers are committed to infant care, there are pathways that would make fathers just as beneficial to the baby, she said.

"I assume that any loving, stable relationships in the child's life are important," Feldman said. "And I also assume that fathers would be very meaningful, and the parents most likely will be more beneficial than grandparents, but grandparents could be hugely beneficial."

The study was published online March 30 in the journal PNAS.

More information

University of California, Davis Health has more on mother-child bonding.

SOURCES: Ruth Feldman, PhD, Simms-Mann professor of developmental social neuroscience, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel, and adjunct professor, Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, Conn.; Michael Yogman, MD, pediatrician, Cambridge Health Alliance, and assistant clinical professor, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.; PNAS, March 30, 2021, online