Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Emotionally stable kids, teens got lots of love in the preschool years

By Kathleen Doheny HealthDay April 27, 2016

Preschoolers given higher levels of emotional support from moms, dads or other caregivers tend to have better emotional health during their childhood and teen years, a new study suggests.

The researchers saw increased growth in a brain region known as the hippocampus in children who were highly supported at preschool age. The hippocampus is involved in emotion, learning and memory formation. Reductions in hippocampus volume have been linked with worse emotional health and unhealthy coping, the study authors said.

"Support during the preschool period seems critical to healthy brain development, and healthy brain development is important for healthy emotional functioning," said study leader Dr. Joan Luby. She's a professor of child psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis.

The researchers reported that they didn't see changes in the volume of the hippocampus based on parental support when the children reached school age.

Because of the study's design, Luby said, it can't prove cause and effect. And, she added, a child who has an unsupportive parent isn't doomed to be emotionally unhealthy if they get the same nurturing and support from another caregiver, such as a grandparent.

Previous research had already shown that maternal support has a powerful effect on the development of the hippocampus.


In the gift scenario in the study, a supportive mother would acknowledge her child's impatience and gently tell the child that sometimes he or she must wait to do something, Luby said. A mother rated as less supportive would either ignore the child or speak harshly, she explained.


For people who grew up without good support, Korman has some reassurance.

"What happens during early childhood is obviously significant in shaping who you are, but it doesn't mean you are doomed [if you did not have the support]," Korman said. If an adult now feels that way, he said, "the best thing they could do is enroll in therapy to explore that." [I suggest also learning to support yourself emotionally. It takes time and effort, but can help you heal.]

Parents who want to learn to be supportive can participate in special programs that focus on that issue, Luby said. These widely available programs are known as parent-child interaction therapies and by other names, she said.


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