Not that any of us ever need an excuse to give our gorgeous little humans all the cuddles, but it turns out it is really good for them, long-term.
New research from the University of Notre Dame says that babies who are shown affection and cuddles early in life actually have a better chance of growing up to be "healthy, well-adjusted adults".
In the forthcoming issue of The Journal of Applied Developmental Science, Professor of Psychology Darcia Narvaez and her colleagues, Lijuan Wang and Ying Cheng, discovered that childhood experiences of affection will lead to better outcomes in adulthood.
Darcia and her fellow professors asked adults a number of questions, such as: "How much did they receive physical affection?" and "How often did they play outside?"
According to Darcia, these are all indicators of what she calls the "evolved developmental niche," explaining that "humans evolved with a nest of care for their young that matches up with the maturational schedule of the child. It was shaped over 30 million years ago and modified through human evolution. We call it the evolved developmental niche."
Incase you are starting to wonder if you have created the correct niche for your little one, Darcia listed a number of the key elements, which are:
- Soothing experiences (all the cuddles, all the time)
- Responsiveness to a baby's needs
- Constant physical presence with affectionate touch (did someone say more cuddles?)
- Playful interactions with caregivers and friends
- Community of affectionate, mindful caregivers
The study ultimately found that adults who received more of the above parenting practices (those sweet, sweet cuddles) in their childhoods displayed less depression and anxiety, a greater ability to take the perspective of others, and an orientation toward compassion.
"Our research shows that when we don't provide children with what they evolved to need, they turn into adults with decreased social and moral capacities," Darcia said, in her conclusion.
"With toxic stress in childhood, the good stuff doesn't get a chance to grow, and you become stress reactive. It's hard to be compassionate when you are focused on yourself. We can see adults all around us who were traumatised or under cared for at critical times."
Moral of the story? Hold your babies tight, and love them like no other - sounds like a plan.