Mature moms more affectionate
than teen ones, study finds
Posted December 19, 2004
Courtesy the University of Toronto - Sue Toye
and World Science staff
Mothers who are more mature tend to display more affection towards their infants, a new study has found. Teenage mothers, by contrast, often focus on what the researchers call “instrumental
such as fixing their infant’s clothes or their pacifier.
“While the study is still preliminary, this finding was very surprising,” says Katherine
Krpan, lead author of the study, conducted as part of her undergraduate thesis at University of Toronto at Mississauga. She is a PhD student in psychology.
“We expected to see teen mothers exhibit more inappropriate behaviours towards their babies such as poking and prodding, which has been shown by previous research. Instead, they were behaving appropriately but displayed more instrumental behaviour and less affection compared to the adult moms.”
Krpan, along with colleagues, examined the maternal behaviour of 119 mothers in three age groups – teenage (15 to 18 years), young (19 to 25 years) and mature (26 to 40 years), all of whom had given birth within a three-month
timespan. They were drawn from hospitals or institutions that provide post-natal care. The researchers also analyzed how the mothers’ maternal responses related to their hormonal levels and early childhood experiences.
In the privacy of each participant’s home, the researchers videotaped the mother interacting with her infant for 20 minutes and asked questions about their present mood and their childhood experiences. The researchers found that mothers who received consistent care during their childhoods behaved more affectionately towards their infants than mothers who were raised by frequently changing caregivers.
Saliva samples were also taken from the mother three times during the course of the research to determine how the hormone cortisol changed when the mother interacted with her infant. The study is published in the January issue of Hormones and