Study reveals babies recognise mum’s anger much earlier than we thought

Posted in Baby Health.

Researchers have recently discovered that babies as young as six months old can recognise anger in their mothers.

Using MRI machines, researchers from the University of Manchester, UK found the angry tone in a mother’s voice activates certain areas of the infant’s brain much earlier than anyone thought.

Plus, the more “intrusive and demanding” the mother’s voice, the stronger the brain response became to hearing angry voices as time went on.

Put simply, the more anger expressed to and around a tiny baby, the more sensitive they become to it, and in some cases, caused a change in the infant’s behaviour the next time they encountered the angry person.  

Chen Zhao of the University of Manchester, UK, who was headed up the study said: “Brain science shows that babies’ brains are sensitive to different emotional tones they hear in voices. Such tones can cause different activation patterns in the infant’s brain areas which are also known to be involved in processing voices in adults and older children. 

“These patterns also reveal that the early care experienced by babies can influence brain responses so that the more intrusive and demanding their mother, the stronger the brain response of these six-month-olds is to hearing angry voices.”

Blows your mind a bit doesn’t it?

The long-term impacts of aggression in the early learning environment have been well documented.

In his recent article for The New York Times, Stephen Marche quoted a study from the Journal of Child Development that found children who grew up in environments where there was lots of yelling had markedly lower levels of self-esteem.

While this study found that an emotionally repressive home environment could literally stunt a child’s growth and in some cases, lower their IQ levels.

And if that’s not enough proof, then there’s this study that found a lack of nurturing in the formative years of child’s life can have a severe impact on a child’s healthy development.  

Now, the good news

The good news is that cuddling and kissing babies can combat the development risk of stressful home environments. So too can managing your own stress in the early parenting years.

Mindfulness coach and author Amy Taylor-Kabbaz teaches women to set aside a part of each day, just for themselves.

“One of the easiest ways to do this when you are at home with kids is to use the little breaks you get in the day to your advantage,” says Amy. “So when your little one goes down for a sleep, don’t start looking for the next thing to do on your list, or around the home. Take a break. Make a cup of tea. Lie on the lounge and do a meditation or take a short nap. That way, by the time you get to the end of the day, your energy is a little more even.”


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