Study Shows Link Between Child Development And Mom's Attitude During Pregnancy

pregnant woman

We're all aware of how important it is to take good care of ourselves and remain positive during pregnancy. Eating right, getting plenty of rest, and trying to keep your stress levels low can help insure you have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and can even impact your baby's health. But a new study suggests that there may be a connection between our attitudes during pregnancy and the child's development, as well. The study says that mothers who "connect" with their babies during pregnancy are more likely to positively interact with them after they're born.

Researchers at the Centre for Family Research completed the analysis. They reviewed every published study in the field, to see if they could find a connection between how parents felt toward their baby during pregnancy, and how they interacted with the child after it was born. They drew data from 14 studies that involved 1,862 mothers and fathers. What they found was eye-opening, to say the least.

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The studies included in the analysis examined parents' thoughts and feelings about the pregnancy using interviews and questionnaires. Expectant parents who showed positive anticipation of their child throughout pregnancy were considered to have a balanced representation of their child. These parents also demonstrated more mind-mindedness, meaning they already saw their child as an individual with their own thoughts and feelings. In comparison, parents who had a more narrow or idealized perception of their baby were considered to have a distorted representation of their child.

Researchers continued observing interactions between the parents and their new babies after the children were born. One thing they measured was sensitivity, or how the parents noticed, interpreted, and responded to their infant's signals in a timely and appropriate manner. Previous studies have shown how important parent-child interaction is for a child's development and learning.

pregnant mom and toddler
Credit: iStock / NataliaDeriabina

After the results from all 14 studies were combined, researchers found a modest connection between positive thinking and feelings about the baby during pregnancy and interaction with the infant after it was born. Interestingly, this connection only applied to mothers, not fathers. But researchers note that the connection is modest. While it may be a piece of the puzzle, it is far from the whole story. However, research also shows that positive thoughts and feelings about the baby during pregnancy is associated with healthy behaviors during pregnancy, like giving up smoking and regular prenatal care.

This is still a relatively new field of study, and more research needs to be done to determine if the connection is stronger than this one analysis shows. We don't hear about it very often because it's still taboo to discuss, but plenty of women don't feel an immediate attachment to their pregnancy or baby. Perhaps they're struggling with emotions from previous miscarriages or infertility, or are dealing with mental health issues or depression. It will be interesting to see where the research leads, and if science can find a more concrete association between how mothers feel during pregnancy and how they interact with their new babies.

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