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Study: “Modern” parenting style breeds anxious kids

Did you let your baby cry it out? Did you put her in a stroller instead of strap her to your chest? Did you feed him – gasp – formula instead of breastfeed? If so, you may be doing it all wrong.

I’m not trying to judge or condemn you. After all, I did all of those things, too. According to Dr. Darcia Narvaez, a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, though, this “modern” style of parenting we practice may be doing our kids much more harm than good.

Dr. Narvaez says that our move away from more traditional parenting techniques is having adverse effects, creating a generation of anxious, depressed children who are lacking in empathy.

“Life outcomes for American youth are worsening, especially in comparison to 50 years ago,” she warns. “Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it.”

Seeming to advocate an attachment parenting philosophy, the professor notes that “Breast-feeding infants, responsiveness to crying, almost constant touch and having multiple adult caregivers are some of the nurturing ancestral parenting practices that are shown to positively impact the developing brain, which not only shapes personality, but also helps physical health and moral development.”

Of course, it may not be quite so clear-cut. For every study on parenting there seems to be a counter-study stating the opposite. For example, research out of Philadelphia’s Temple University this week actually advocates letting your baby cry it out. And while AP practices such as baby-wearing, co-sleeping and on-demand breastfeeding may benefit baby, another recent study indicates that they’re bad for mom, noting that women who take an “intensive mothering” approach were more likely to show “negative mental health outcomes.”

So what’s a mom to do?

I try to pay due attention to the endless research on best parenting practices, but in the end my personal, wholly unscientific philosophy is this: Mom (and dad) really does know best. Every woman, every child, every family is different; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the day-to-day of parenting. I let my kids cry it out, I wore them all the time, I largely formula-fed, I surrounded them with a village, I try to model empathy and compassion. When I question myself, which I think most parents do from time-to-time, it always comes down to this: They know without a second’s hesitation that they’re loved and they’re safe. Studies aside, I know that matters.

What do you think of this latest study? What’s your “parenting style?”

Photo: MorgueFile

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