The bond a baby forges with his or her parents may have big implications for the child's mental health as a teenager, a study finds. Researchers evaluated children's behavior starting at the age of four months, watching how they reacted to seeing their mothers after a period apart, PsychCentral reports. Those who happily greeted their parents before venturing off to explore were deemed to have secure bonds; those who stayed away or seemed upset were seen as having insecure bonds. The scientists also studied whether the children were "behaviorally inhibited": Did they retreat when confronted with new people or things?
Many years later, 165 of those children, as well as their parents, discussed the now-teenage subjects' experiences with anxiety, as the researchers report in Child Development. The team found that the kids who had been behaviorally inhibited and had had insecure bonds with their parents showed higher levels of anxiety as teens; the link was particularly pronounced among boys. "The most important message from this study is that competent, responsive parents who form a secure relationship with their young children can be an extremely important protective factor in their child’s development," a researcher tells the University of Waterloo's news service. (Another interesting study finds that for moms, the smell of their newborns is like a drug.)