Risk of child behaviour problems reduced by interaction with their Mums

The quality of interactions between very young children and their parents can predict how likely it is that children will experience problems later in life, says new research from the charity, Mellow Parenting, and the Universities of Salford, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Using a sample of one-year olds looking at a picture book with a parent, a team of researchers were able to show that even a small increase in positive interaction predicted a big reduction in the risk of the children developing psychological disorders by age seven.

Dr Christine Puckering, Programme Director at Mellow Parenting, said: “In this setting, on average parents made six positive behaviours to their child every minute. If this increased to seven a minute the risk of later psychological problems went down by 15%. Conversely, if the positive interaction went down to five a minute, the risk of later problems increased by 15%. This is a very early indicator of which parents might benefit from additional help before things go wrong.”

Previous research has tended to emphasise the role of negative interaction in predicting behaviour problems and many parenting programmes concentrate on managing children’s behavior. This research shows the protective effect of having fun, so later behaviour is less likely to cause problems for the parents or the child.

The lead researcher from the University of Salford, Dr Clare Allely, who conducted the research while working as a researcher at the University of Glasgow, said: “The study also found that male children were significantly more likely to be negatively parented which is definitely an area which warrants further research. To our knowledge, this is the first study to report such a finding.”