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Nice Moms Give Kids Big Brains

Illustration for article titled Nice Moms Give Kids Big Brains

We hear a lot about ways moms can fuck up their kids for good, but here's some nice news for once: moms who support their kids can help them grow bigger brains.

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LiveScience reports that researchers devised an exceptionally cute experiment — and one extremely frustrating for impatient little kids. They put 3-to-6-year-olds in a room with just their moms and a nicely-wrapped present. The kids weren't allowed to open the present for five minutes, or, in three-year-old time, five million years. Researchers watched how the moms acted — an especially supportive mom might, for instance, "console her child, explaining that the child had only a few more minutes to wait and that she understands the situation was frustrating." Another mom might just ignore the obnoxious little fucker. After the present test, scientists waited four years. Then they scanned the kids' brains — among healthy kids, the hippocampus was 9.2% smaller in those who got the least support from their moms than in those who got the most. The study authors explain why this is a big deal:

The importance of this effect is underscored by the fact that the hippocampus is a brain region central to memory, emotion regulation, and stress modulation, all areas key to healthy social adaptation. We believe these findings have potentially profound public health implications and suggest that greater public health emphasis on early parenting could be a very fruitful social investment. The finding that early parenting support, a modifiable psychosocial factor, is directly related to healthy development of a key brain region known to impact cognitive functioning and emotion regulation opens an exciting opportunity to impact the development of children in a powerful and positive fashion. This finding, when replicated, would strongly suggest enhancement of public policies and programs that provide support and parenting education to caregivers early in development.

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So basically, helping moms support their kids could give kids healthier brains, which would lead to a healthier society. And also, telling your kid that it's okay, she'll get open the present soon could make her better at dealing with stress later in life. It's not shocking, but in a world full of doom-and-gloom messages about parenting, it's nice to hear.

How a Mother's Love Changes a Child's Brain [LiveScience]

Image via VLADGRIN/Shutterstock.com

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DISCUSSION

If you took a look at the psychosocial development of my daughter you'd think I was a horrible mom... until you took a look at my son. They both came from my body, both were loved and treated the same by me (if anything I was even gentler and kinder to my girl). The daughter is just different. She didn't even want to cuddle as a baby and would *push me away*. So thanks, Science. Now everyone is going to think it's All My Fault.