American Babies Laugh Less Than Dutch Ones Do

Possibly because US parents value independence, experts say
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2015 6:50 AM CST
American Babies Laugh Less Than Dutch Ones Do
Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder kisses his baby, who probably smiles and cuddles a lot.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

It seems cultural differences are visible at a very early age: less than one year old, to be precise. A new study has found that Dutch babies laugh and smile more than US infants, and they cuddle more, too, per a Washington State University post at Eureka Alert. American babies do, however, have the Dutch beat when it comes to being noisy, researchers say. They were found to be more vocal and active than those in the Netherlands; they also showed more fear, sadness, and frustration, while Dutch babies were easier to calm down. The findings were based on surveys of mothers that asked about the occurrence of 191 different baby behaviors at six months and one year of age. Why the differences? Researchers have some ideas.

US parents, the study suggests, tend to share a belief in the importance of cognitive stimulation. But "two things that are very important to Dutch parents are reserving specific times for sleep and not over-stimulating their children," says Maria Gartstein, co-author of the study published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology. (She notes she was "struck by" how little Dutch parents incorporate toys in their child play.) As Jesse Singal at the Science of Us puts it: "As an American baby, every moment you spend cuddling is a moment that baby across the street spends preparing for the ultra-competitive global workplace." The researchers hope knowing more about how parents impact a kid's temperament "will help psychologists fine-tune ways to prevent infant temperament issues from becoming behavioral problems later in life." (Looking to bless your independent child with a unique name? Fork over $32,000.)

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