Do you put your baby in a stroller? Does your baby have his/her own room? Does your baby consume formula in addition to or instead of breast milk? Do you ever stop touching your baby? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, well, I don't mean to alarm you, but ... U R DOIN IT WRONG.
That's according to research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame, anyway. Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology, says that "ill-advised" modern parenting techniques may be affecting babies in a variety of alarming ways, creating -- are you ready for this?? -- an epidemic of anxiety and depression, aggression, delinquency, and decreasing moral behavior.
Way to destroy America, you heartless stroller-wielding moms.
Narvaez says that "life outcomes for American youth are worsening," and that early parenting practices can be tied to adulthood personality, physical health, and moral development. She says as a society, we're moving away from ancient techniques like breast-feeding infants, being responsive to crying, having multiple adult caregivers, and providing almost constant touch for babies ... and it's affecting our children:
Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, 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.
Hmm, interesting that she describes the notion of "spoiling" young babies by responding to their cries as a modern phenomenon ... being as how I've NEVER heard of any mom who subscribes to that theory. In fact, that was a relatively popular belief nearly 100 years ago.
But anyway, back to the other horrible modern practices. If you put your child in a stroller, you're denying him physical touch and the ability to interact with nature:
positive touch affects stress reactivity, impulse control and empathy; free play in nature influences social capacities and aggression
Oh, and if you're the primary caregiver? Well, you're screwing things up there, too:
a set of supportive caregivers (beyond the mother alone) predicts IQ and ego resilience as well as empathy.
In fact, we're failing on all fronts:
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 breast-feeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970.
Like most research, I think there's probably something of value here, but it's buried in the presenter's opinion. The fact is, we don't live in harmonious cave-villages any more, where babies can be toted around all day and passed from person to person. We're busy. We've got errands to run, older children to take care of, and jobs to do. We live in a society where leaving children to "free play" can result in a freaking arrest, for god's sake.
As for me, I used formula, I put my kids in strollers, they had their own bedrooms, and they actually seem to have turned out pretty okay so far. Of course, they're still pretty young -- the jury's still out on what sort of adults they'll be. It's good to know if they do have problems later in life, it can ALL be traced back to their infanthood.
What do you think about this research? Do you believe the problems young adults are facing these days often have to do with how they were treated as babies?
Image via Ed Yourdon/Flickr