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Can Hugs and Kisses Ward off Future Illness?

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Can Hugs and Kisses Ward off Future Illness?

A new study finds that children of families with low socioeconomic status who had nurturing mothers had better health in midlife than those with less caring mothers.

In another chapter of the nature versus nurture debate, a new study has provided more reason to lavish hugs and kisses—and quality time—on our kids. The researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that metabolic syndrome in adulthood may be a lower risk for people who received high levels of maternal nurturance even if they were raised in families with socioeconomic disadvantages. Metabolic syndrome is a precursor to coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. Though it’s clear that children raised in families with low socioeconomic status (SES) suffer higher rates of chronic illness as adults, these researchers sought to understand why this is not so for many people with similar family disadvantages. The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, set out to examine if parental nurturance could mitigate the effects of childhood disadvantage. They followed 1,205 people for over a decade and assessed nurturance with questions such as: How much did she [your] understand your problems and worries and how much time and attention did she [your] give you when you needed it? The results of their study revealed that “low childhood SES was associated with higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome at midlife ...” But “despite this pattern, half the participants raised in low-SES households were free of metabolic syndrome at midlife.” These were primarily the participants who had nurturing mothers. Interestingly, it seems that—in their study cohort, at least—having a nurturing father didn’t seem to contribute in the same way. Do moms matter most? Either way, it’s an important legacy to leave our children. A little love and attention goes a long, long way.

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