According to the Washington Post, scientists have found that the kind of baby you were at 12 months can say a lot about the type of partner you’ll be as an adult. Psychologist Jeffrey Simpson and his colleagues tracked 78 people for over 2 decades, starting when they were babies. Mothers and infants were brought into a lab - then the mothers were asked to leave briefly. All the babies became upset, but the experts were interested in what happened when the mothers returned. Some infants clung tightly to mom and quickly calmed down. Others took quite a while to calm down, and some babies refused to turn to their mothers at all for comfort.
Simpson says secure infants turn to their parents when they’re upset, knowing they can count on them. And in turn, they learn to turn to others. But when parents neglect or reject their children, kids become insecure. They avoid their parents or they think “I have to throw a fit to get attention!” And this continues throughout their lives. During the study, researchers examined the kids in the first through 3rd grades, asking teachers about the kids’ social skills.
When they got upset, did they lash out in anger or reach out for help? Next, they checked in on the kids when they were teenagers to see if they turned to their friends for support or if they distracted themselves. And finally, the researchers checked in with the now grown-up kids in their early 20s. They asked them how often they felt happy or sad in their current relationship, and asked their partners to weigh-in as well. The results? If a child was insecure at age 1, that predicted being less socially competent during grade school, which predicted less reliance on friends during the teen years, and ultimately more negative emotions in a relationship as an adult.
So contrary to the popular myth that people who are left to fend for themselves become strong and independent, it’s those who are confident enough to reach out for help – and to whom help is given, who truly become independent. Something to think about, parents!