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The Importance of Parental Affection

By Veronica James ; Updated June 13, 2017

In her 2010 article, "Understanding Growth and Development Patterns of Infants," Novella J. Ruffin, a child development specialist at Virginia State University, stresses the importance of the first five years of a child's life in setting down the patterns for future emotional development. Affirmation and affection in the early years are crucial for healthy patterns of behavior and emotional stability, and for preparing for the challenges of the outside world. Instilling in your child an unshakable confidence in your love and affection is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Physical and Emotional Affection

Joanna Maselko, et al., in their 2010 research study published in the "Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health," found that out of three sets of adults in their 30s who had been assessed at 8 months old, those who had received the most physical and emotional affection in infancy had developed the most stable and positive emotional functioning and mental health. At the other end of the scale, the College of Education at Florida International University notes that children who are brought up in emotionally cold environments, and who suffer psychological traumas such as humiliation, emotional neglect, ridicule and verbal abuse, are likely to reach adulthood with varying degrees of mental fragility. Common markers of childhood neglect include low self-esteem, depression and, in many cases, a continuation of the patterns of emotionally withdrawn behavior learned from parents or caregivers.

Unconditional Affectionate Behavior

Infants and toddlers who are fretful or disruptive need just as much positive regard and affirmation as quieter children. Ruffin underlines the importance of unconditional love and affection, no matter what the young child's temperament, believing that even overly fractious children can eventually respond to an unwavering patience and love. This approach is reinforced by the California State University in "The Eight Ideals of Attachment Parenting." Irritable infants are defined as high-need, and rather than being left to fuss, they need all the physical and emotional closeness necessary for reassurance and comfort.

Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting

Naturally, children need guidance, boundaries and careful nurturing to teach them respect for themselves and for others, and how to interact with the world. Whereas in previous generations children were expected to be seen and not heard, parenting these days can balance firm guidance and boundary-setting with the emotional support and affectionate nurturing that a child needs to feel secure within those boundaries. Fernando Garcia, et al., of the University of Valencia, conducted a study of more than 1,400 teenagers to establish the respective benefits of authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent and neglectful parenting styles. The authors concluded that the most positive outcomes in terms of teenage academic success are the result of a combination of authoritative parenting, in which guidance is firm and reliably consistent, with a high degree of emotional warmth and affection.

Massage to Deepen Your Bond

Affectionate and loving touch is immensely comforting to a baby and is an emotionally enriching experience for a baby and a parent to share, whether that's the father or the mother. Touch decreases stress, reassures the infant that she is safe and, according to Michelle Fletcher of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, is as important to her healthy development as eating and sleeping. Continuing to massage your child as she reaches toddler age will reinforce her sense of safety and give her continuing and tangible proof of your love and affection for her.

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