Study suggests mums’ friendships benefit babies for the rest of their lives

Two women jumping

A new study of over 500 mums suggests that the more social connections a mother has outside her family, the better it is for everyone!

Mum friends for the win

This happy outcome was for a number of reasons, the researchers said.

Firstly, these early examples of friendships helped children to pick up lots of important skills and promoted brain development.

“Social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children,” the study findings say, noting that “social relationships beyond the mother-child-father triad” are of particular benefit.

Babies and children who are exposed to their mother’s friendship group pick up important social skills and have more opportunities to bond and communicate with adults. They also thrive when adults relate to them in a consistent, caring way. It follows that the more caring adults are around them, the more they learn and thrive. 


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Relationship prototypes

The study team found that these friendship circles – which they called social micro-systems – provide gains that stay with children for the rest of their lives.

“From the child’s perspective, these intimate bonds form the basis for solid attachments and provide prototypes for adulthood and the basis for social interaction,” the authors say.

But excellent relationship modelling was not the only benefit of having plenty of mum pals. There were some other clear practical benefits too.

Mothers’ friendships outside the family helped mums to feel better supported and provided a sort of social safety net that encouraged the long-term wellbeing and development of children too.

It takes a village

“Mothers with larger social networks may be able to draw on resources from those networks that alleviate some of the burdens associated with parenting,” study co-author Kaja LeWinn, a psychiatry researcher at the University of California San Francisco, told Reuters.

“This may include emotional support, tangible support in the form of babysitting or help with errands, and the transfer of knowledge around high-quality daycare or other childhood programs. These resources may reduce parenting stress and improve maternal mental health, both of which are positively associated with child cognitive development.”

“Our results captured the importance of a community-based social life,” the team concluded.

Further proof that it takes a village.

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