Child rearing practices of distant ancestors foster morality, compassion in kids, research says

Sep 20, 2010 By Susan Guibert
Child rearing practices of distant ancestors foster morality, compassion in kids, research says

Ever meet a kindergartener who seemed naturally compassionate and cared about others' feelings? Who was cooperative and didn't demand his own way? Chances are, his parents held, carried and cuddled him a lot; he most likely was breastfed; he probably routinely slept with his parents; and he likely was encouraged to play outdoors with other children, according to new research findings from the University of Notre Dame.

Three new studies led by Notre Dame Psychology Professor Darcia Narvaez show a relationship between child rearing practices common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies (how we humans have spent about 99 percent of our history) and better mental health, greater empathy and conscience development, and higher intelligence in children.

“Our research shows that the roots of moral functioning form early in life, in infancy, and depend on the affective quality of family and community support,” says Narvaez, who specializes in the moral and character development of children.

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The three studies include an observational study of the practices of parents of three-year-olds, a longitudinal study of how certain child rearing practices relate to child outcomes in a national child abuse prevention project, and a comparison study of between mothers in the U.S. and China. The longitudinal study examined data from the research of another Notre Dame psychologist, John Borkowski, who specializes in the impact of child abuse and neglect on development.

The results of Narvaez’ three studies as well as those from researchers around the world will be presented at a conference at Notre Dame in October titled “Human Nature and Early Experience: Addressing the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness.

“The way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well being and a ,” she says.

Narvaez identifies six characteristics of child rearing that were common to our distant ancestors:

• Lots of positive touch - as in no spanking - but nearly constant carrying, cuddling and holding;
• Prompt response to baby’s fusses and cries. You can’t “spoil” a baby. This means meeting a child’s needs before they get upset and the brain is flooded with toxic chemicals. “Warm, responsive caregiving like this keeps the infant’s brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,” Narvaez says.
• Breastfeeding, ideally 2 to 5 years. A child’s immune system isn’t fully formed until age 6 and breast milk provides its building blocks.
• Multiple adult caregivers - people beyond mom and dad who also love the child.
• Free play with multi-age playmates. Studies show that kids who don’t play enough are more likely to have ADHD and other mental health issues.
• Natural childbirth, which provides mothers with the hormone boosts that give the energy to care for a newborn.

The U.S. has been on a downward trajectory on all of these care characteristics, according to Narvaez. Instead of being held, infants spend much more time in carriers, car seats and strollers than they did in the past. Only about 15 percent of mothers are breastfeeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up, and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970.

“Ill advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms, or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it,” Narvaez says.

Whether the corollary to these modern practices or the result of other forces, research shows the health and well being of American children is worse than it was 50 years ago: there’s an epidemic of anxiety and depression among the young; aggressive behavior and delinquency rates in young children are rising; and empathy, the backbone of compassionate, moral behavior, has been shown to be decreasing among college students.

“All of these issues are of concern to me as a researcher of moral development,” Narvaez says. “Kids who don’t get the emotional nurturing they need in early life tend to be more self-centered. They don’t have available the compassion-related emotions to the same degree as kids who were raised by warm, responsive families.”

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User comments : 20

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dtxx
3.7 / 5 (15) Sep 20, 2010
Just more proof that we don't need a made up god for a basis for morality.
HungOnGravity
Sep 20, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Caliban
4.6 / 5 (18) Sep 20, 2010
I tried this with my puppy a few years back, didn't work.


How did your puppy respond to being breast fed for 2-5 years?
freethinking
1.3 / 5 (18) Sep 20, 2010
Stupid study alert. What this study has to do with God and dtxx thinking that this stupid study is proof that we don't need God is beyond me. No where is God mentioned in the study.

However it is known that kids raised in traditional families, biological father and mother, raised with religion, tend to have higher academic scores, do better in life, and live healthier and longer lives. I know of many studies that show this but I have included only one. The lazy athiests can if they want find more themselves.

As I said below is just one study and btw I am not an 7'th day Adventist, never been to any of their services, however just as I do with Catholics I consider them Christian.

http://www.llu.ed...ity.page
marjon
1.6 / 5 (13) Sep 20, 2010
Just more proof that we don't need a made up god for a basis for morality.

Notre Dame is a Catholic University.
kristal2146
3.5 / 5 (8) Sep 20, 2010
Stupid study alert. What this study has to do with God and dtxx thinking that this stupid study is proof that we don't need God is beyond me. No where is God mentioned in the study.


I think you missed something.. that was a comment about the study and had nothing to do with the article. This study just shows what we AP parents have known for a long time.. that creating a healthy attachment with your child from infancy provides a plethora of long term benefits for the child including better health, security, compassion, and relationships for his/her future. I can't think of any reason a parent wouldn't want that for their child.
arofibook
4.6 / 5 (10) Sep 21, 2010
@freethinking, and his statement, "What this study has to do with God and dtxx thinking that this stupid study is proof that we don't need God is beyond me."

Christians ALWAYS claim that god or jesus provides a moral compass. The study shows that morality is a natural occurrence and doesn't require belief in this supernatural god nonsense.

Imagine having to rely on god for being moral, and the day you need it, god is busy killing people in natural disasters or giving children leukemia?
freethinking
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 21, 2010
Notre Dame catholic? Well they dont stand on Catholic principles... just google notre dame controversy ... If you say your catholic, then stand on catholic principles, Notre Dame professors are extremely progressive.
freethinking
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 21, 2010
arofibook, Christians do believe that Jesus and God provides a moral compass AND that He provides us with a free will AND because humans choose to do evil, evil happens. This Study has nothing to do with it, unless your an athiest and see God hate in everything.

But coming around to this study, its a stupid study based on assumptions of how our ancestors raised children (using how some tribes today raise children, but when they find child rearing books of our ancestors...), and mangifying the authors assupmtions on how we should raise children.(some of which I agree with)

If you using a poorly done study to prove anything especially that you don't need God, you are desperately grasping at straws.

NameIsNotNick
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 21, 2010
a unless your an athiest and see God hate in everything.


How can an atheist hate God? Think about it...
freethinking
1 / 5 (11) Sep 21, 2010
NameisNotNick.

Actually, I've never met an athiest who isn't angry at God.

See arofibook comments is an example, how can s/he believe in God that allows death, etc.
Other athiest have told me that when they were a kid xy or z happened, or xy or z let them down.

Javinator
4.1 / 5 (9) Sep 21, 2010
How can an atheist hate God? Think about it...


Actually, I've never met an athiest who isn't angry at God.


You clearly didn't think about it...
NameIsNotNick
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 21, 2010
NameisNotNick.
Actually, I've never met an atheist who isn't angry at God.


You just did ;-)
TheQuietMan
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2010
Some of the conclusions are a bit suspicious, like someone proving a point by making the evidence fit. How would they know whether a child got spankings or not in prehistory? Some of the other I might buy, but they are stating it as a fact, which tends to mean they are not a scientist. Scientists deal in theories, testable hypotheses, and evidence. What I read were opinions.
Skepticus
2.7 / 5 (6) Sep 24, 2010
The only unescapable facts this study points out are the amount of minimal breast feeding, personal attention, and physical contact between mothers/carers and the baby, all of which have been proved unhealthy for children development elswhere if you cared to dig.
knikiy
3 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2010
The only unescapable facts this study points out are the amount of minimal breast feeding, personal attention, and physical contact between mothers/carers and the baby, all of which have been proved unhealthy for children development elswhere if you cared to dig.

if its facts that make us more human (or humane) then you need to dig all the way to China - your head only knows half the truth, your body knows the rest.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2010
NameisNotNick.
Actually, I've never met an atheist who isn't angry at God.


You just did ;-)

Atheists can't be angry at God. You can't be angry at something that you don't think exists.

FT, one would ask if this isn't the pot calling the kettle black in some cases, or merely an example of projection. Do you think atheists hate god and you must now hate them for god as he doesn't do anything about it or do you merely hate people who don't see a need for god? I'd suggest it was the latter as you use a similar methodology when you speak of "progressives," which you define as "anyone who doesn't agree with you."
if its facts that make us more human (or humane) then you need to dig all the way to China - your head only knows half the truth, your body knows the rest.
Being human is what we do despite our instincts, not because of them.
angelhkrillin
1 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2010
How can you say notre dame is not catholic but progressive? that is an oxymoron, you have obviously not seen most documentaries about the catholic church back in the old days. They were the ones sponsoring scientific research, genetics, astronomy, mathematics, and a bunch of other stuff, the media has portrayed catholics as a bunch of superstitious people when most famous scientists of the old world and findings were sponsored by them.
_nigmatic10
1 / 5 (3) Sep 25, 2010
They were also the ones running around burning books and condemning scientists to heresy. Still, all things considered, they faired well in retaining education through some dark times.

A human is just like anything else living, with the exception that the vessel of nurturing can often return as much as is given, and sometimes more.
KBK
1.6 / 5 (5) Sep 25, 2010
Let's just comment on the article and leave the god mental farts to the chronic sniffers.

I may believe in a spiritual whatever, but I also believe that there is nothing more detrimental to mankind's development than organized religion.

That also includes unquestioning belief in science as a form of god's own truth -which is inherently sick.

Question everything.
Arikin
not rated yet Sep 25, 2010
Nice generic study. Probably why so many comments on off topics.

One correlation I didn't see necessary or capable of being supported by the study is the one about college students. There are way too many environmental factors between infancy and college. And this study didn't study all those ages...

But I thought physical contact (skinship?) and social skills have already been proven beneficial. Formula, of course it is bad. Even dangerous with the recent scandal in China. But in other studies breastfeeding has only been shown beneficial up to about to 6 months.

Studies are to show facts not make up assumptions beyond its own scope. Sounds a bit too much of an agenda. Even if the agenda does some good it doesn't belong in a scientific study.