A new study from Scotland suggests that the more you talk to and interact with your baby, the less likely it is that your child will develop ADHD later in life.
Researchers believe they have discovered a link between a lack of communication between a mother and her baby and a risk that the child will develop emotional problems and behavioral disorders as the child matures.
Scientists analyzed hundreds of videos of mothers interacting with their year-old babies. Study co-author Dr Clare Allely, a psychologist at Glasgow University's Institute Of Health And Wellbeing, said: "We used 180 videos for this study of mothers interacting with their 12-month-old infants – of which 120 were controls and 60 were of the children who were later diagnosed with disorders at seven years old."
They found that for every decrease of five vocalizations per minute by the mother the odds of the child developing ADHD by the age of seven increased by 44%. Vocalizations included everything from simple sounds to words.
Researchers said the findings did not mean that if you don’t talk to your baby all the time that he or she will develop psychological and psychiatric problems. Instead they suggest that active parenting may offer a protective effect against these kinds of conditions.
Philip Wilson, study co-author and professor of primary care and rural health at the University of Aberdeen, said there are several theories on why the link may exist. "We have got the possibility that active parenting and active communication by the parents may have a protective effect against the development of problems with attention and conduct," he said.
"The other main hypothesis is to do with genetics. We know people who themselves have ADHD or conduct problems tend to be more under-active and communicate less later on in life. So the second possible explanation is that it may be the mothers themselves have ADHD and have become underactive and passed on the genetic vulnerability to the children."
Wilson also gave his own personal hypothesis. "My hunch is that it is somewhere in between the two and it has probably got both things. The child probably has to have some genetic vulnerability to these conditions on the one hand – but on the other hand more engaged and active parenting might be protective."
Wilson says he believes the study is the first to compare early parental communication and the development of disorders using examples from the general public.
The study is being published in the journal Research In Developmental Disabilities.
While the researchers in this study suggests that there may be a link between how much a parents communicates with their baby and ADHD or psychological / psychiatric problems, parents shouldn’t feel guilty or worry if they have a busy day and can’t communicate as much as they want.
Experts in child development do agree that the more positive and loving interaction parents, and caregivers, can give to the baby, the better. A baby’s mind is developing at a remarkable rate during the first 3 years of life; enjoy your time with your little one and talk to him or her as much as you realistically can throughout the day.