Warm parenting offers hope for callous, unemotional kids

July 25th, 2012 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Syndey, July 25 (IANS) If a child receives consistent and warm parenting in a secure family environment, it can prevent them from psychopathic acts and violent crime in adulthood, says a new research.

“We found that the quality of a parent’s emotional interaction and attachment with a young child is crucial to predicting if that child will develop this high-risk pattern of behaviour,” said David Hawes, from the University of Sydney School of Psychology, who led the study.

Children who early on show a fearless temperament and indifference to other people’s emotions, especially when they are upset or in need of help, are known as having “callous-unemotional” (CU) traits. This behaviour has been shown to be a strong indicator of psychopathic behaviour and violent crime in adulthood.

“These children are indifferent to punishment for poor behaviour and, in fact, the more severe the punishment the worse the behaviour becomes,” said Hawes, according to a university statement.

“While CU characteristics seem to be largely under the control of genetics if a child receives consistent and warm parenting in a secure family environment, it can protect against those traits. This aspect of parenting is still relevant in terms of influencing the traits even though it is not the cause,” said Hawes.

“In fact, its protective effects - its ability to prevent the development of aggressive and oppositional behaviour - also appear to be strongest for children with the highest level of CU traits,” added Hawes.

Hawes and his colleagues have just completed a four-year study, looking at children aged two to four with CU traits. The research was unusual in concentrating on very young children and being based primarily on direct observation. It used video analysis to evaluate the quality of interactions and attachment between mothers and children.

“The study suggests that the emotional bonds between mothers and their children strongly predict if they will show high levels of CU traits, as well as conduct problems,” said Hawes.

Until recently the quality of a child’s parenting was not believed to have an impact on either callous-unemotional or the behaviour of children with such traits, but this research suggests that strengthening the emotional bonds between parents and their infants can make a difference.

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