Does consistent bonding with mom help babies feel more secure?

Does consistent bonding with mom help babies feel more secure?

At a time when an increasing number of families are sharing custody of their children, new research says babies who spend one night a week away from their moms developed “more insecure attachments,” compared to babies who spent every night with mom.

Results from a national study by researchers at the University of Virginia found that infants do better with consistency when it comes to bonding with their caregiver.

“Attachments during that critical first year serve as the basis for healthy attachments and relationships later in life, including adulthood,” said study leader Samantha Tornello in a statement.

Researchers defined attachments as a “deep emotional connection between the baby and their caregiver in the first year of life.”

Study leaders looked at data from a nationwide study of 5,000 children born from 1998 to 2000, that included interviews of parents when the child was newborn then again at ages 1 and 3.

The results showed that 43 percent of infants who spent at least one night per week away from mom were less securely attached compared 16 percent of babies who had few overnights away from their mother.

Study leaders believe that the most important thing is the baby has consistency with being with their caregiver whether it’s mom or dad. It’s the shuffling back and forth between homes that is most disruptive.

“We would want a child to be attached to both parents, but in the case of separation a child should have at least one good secure attachment,” Tornello said. “It’s about having constant caregivers that’s important.”

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One Comment

  1. Critics opposed to shared parenting and overnights for infants and toddlers post-divorce have been relying on misleading interpretations of very flawed research such as the widely publicized Tornello Fragile Families study to argue that young children need to spend most of their time and every night in the care of one “primary” parent.

    Properly disciplined research has safeguards built in to protect it from the prejudices of the researchers. Troublingly, this is not the case with the results-orientated advocacy research by Tornello and colleagues. (Nielsen 2013) Lawmakers and courts often take this research that forms the picture of society on which government policy is based, not to mention the general public, as being simply objective truth.

    In order to clarify where social science stands on these issues, a February 2014 paper published in the American Psychological Association’s prestigious peer-review journal, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, with the endorsement of 110 of the world’s top authorities from 15 countries in attachment, early child development, and divorce, recommends that in normal circumstances, overnights and ‘shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.’

    Unlike the work by Tornello this important study sheds much needed light on what is best for infants and toddlers whose parents live apart and its importance cannot be overstated.


    Warshak R A (2014) Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, 46–67

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.