My sister came across this article on cognitive development and just knew I’d love it. She’s right, because child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that:
School-age children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.
Even in a very limited setting—all the nurturing was done at the lab, and they didn’t follow the parents and children home—they were able to observe the difference between children whose parents supported them and those who didn’t:
As part of the initial study, the children were closely observed and videotaped interacting with a parent, almost always a mother, as the parent was completing a required task, and the child was asked to wait to open an attractive gift. How much or how little the parent was able to support and nurture the child in this stressful circumstance — which was designed to approximate the stresses of daily parenting — was evaluated by raters who knew nothing about the child’s health or the parent’s temperament.
“It’s very objective,” says Luby, professor of child psychiatry. “Whether a parent was considered a nurturer was not based on that parent’s own self-assessment. Rather, it was based on their behavior and the extent to which they nurtured their child under these challenging conditions.”
The difference? Almost 10% in the size of the hippocampus.
That’s enough to make me worried I’m not nurturing enough .
What do you think? What other influences do moms have on minds?