Measuring The Meaning Of Mothering

The BBC has a story today on one of those odd scientific studies that seek to confirm what everybody already believes.  In this case, the study attempts to assess the impact of mothering on children.  Psychologists evaluated the interactions between mothers and their infants during a routine check-up with the children were only eight months’ old, and those now fully grown children were then asked to respond to survey questions 30 years later. 

Not surprisingly, the study found that when mothers are expressively loving and supportive, their children are better situated to deal with distress and to develop effective life, social, and coping skills.  The children of emotionally cold mothers, on the other hand, have more difficulty dealing with anxiety.  There is a limit to the developmental effectiveness of maternal warmth, however.  The study concluded that over-mothering can be “intrusive and embarrassing.”

So, the study supports what we already knew instinctively:  that mothers make a difference in the lives of their children.  For those mothers who are prone to feeling inadequate — and what Mom isn’t? — the study also will cause them to fret that they have ruined their kids’ lives by neglecting to give a hug or warm words of support at a crucial moment. 

I won’t have thought it possible that mothers could be made to feel even more guilty about their parenting skills, but this study probably accomplishes that.  Isn’t science wonderful?

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