47 0 0 0 13 6. Few human development parenting magazine require more hands-on attention than a young child.
And there’s little that’s more distracting than the constant bleeping of our cells phones. When these two things compete for our attention, the results can be sobering. The study involved rats, but the implications, says one of the senior authors, could be very relevant for many parent-baby interactions in our technology-obsessed world. TIME Health Newsletter Get the latest health and science news, plus: burning questions and expert tips.
Tallie Baram, professor of pediatrics and anatomy-neurobiology at University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues used a rat model to study how good but disrupted attention from mothers can affect their newborns. Baram placed some mothers and their pups in modified cages that did not have sufficient material for nesting or bedding. When the offspring grew older, the researchers tested them on how much sugar solution they ate, and how they played with their peers, two measures of how much pleasure the animals were feeling and a proxy for their emotional development. The rats raised in the modified environments consistently ate less of the sugar solution and spent less of their time playing and chasing their peers than the rats raised in the normal setting.
We had to go back and look at what the heck we had done. What was it in the development of these baby rats, what aberrant signals did they get? The rats had enough food, were raised in the right temperature, and were normal weight. What’s more, they spent the same amount of time with their mothers as the babies raised in the normal environments. What differed among the rats growing up in the modified environments was the type of attention they received from their mothers.