Mother’s Support of Baby’s Autonomy Leads to Higher Cognitive Skills

Higher cognitive skills are found in the children of mothers who are consistently able to support the development of their baby's sense of autonomy, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Montreal. The researchers specifically looked at executive functioning, which refers to a range of cognitive processes that are essential for cognitive, social, and psychological functioning. "We have shown that the child's executive functioning is linked to the mother's ability to support his or her autonomy. Autonomy support includes things such as teaching children problem-solving skills and involves taking the child's perspective while ensuring he or she takes an active role in completing tasks," said Célia Matte-Gagné, who led the study, which was published on November 5, 2014 in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. "Importantly, the study shows that it's not just about getting off to a good start. While many studies have confirmed that a mother's support is critical, few have looked at how these skills might change over time and what effect that might have." Seventy-eight mothers and their children participated in the study. The participants were visited in their homes twice by the research team - once when the child was 15 months old, again at 3 years of age - and each visit lasted 60 to 90 minutes. During this time, the mother was asked to help the children complete activities that were slightly too difficult for the child to complete alone (building a tower and completing puzzles at the first visit, sorting blocks at the second).
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