Maselko, J. et al. (2011)
Mother’s Affection at 8 Months Predicts Emotional Distress in Adulthood
J Epidemiol Community Health 65(7): 621-5

pdfMother's Affection at 8 Months Predicts Emotional Distress in Adulthood (full summary)

  • According to attachment theory, close loving bonds, particularly to a single carer, give infants a secure base from which to explore the world; this suggests but does not prove that experience of warmth and affection in infancy may be linked to better physical and mental health in adulthood.
  • Increased levels of a hormone, oxytoxin (the “cuddle hormone”) have been associated with strong mother-infant bonds and with low responses to stress.
  • The researchers investigated stress responses in adults aged 34 whose parents had taken part in an observational study of early childhood when they were infants. In particular, they correlated stress in adulthood with recorded observations of maternal affection when the children had been eight months old.
  • Individuals whose mothers had been recorded as showing high levels of affection to them as infants reported significantly lower levels of emotional stress over thirty years later.
  • The researchers conclude that the psychological and physical health of adults may be affected by a “biological memory” of the way in which they were treated as infants many decades earlier.