Parents are human, and all humans make mistakes. Some parents worry that if they are not perfect parents, it could result in lasting harm to their babies. A study from Lehigh University debunks that idea. “Good enough” parenting is actually good enough.
A study titled: “Secure Base Provision: A New Approach to Examining Links Between Maternal Caregiving and Infant Attachment” was published in the journal Child Development. It was co-authored by Susan S. Woodhouse (an expert on infant attachment), Julie R. Scott (of Pennsylvania State University), Allison D. Hepsworth (of the University of the Maryland School of Social Work), and Jude Cassidy (of the University of Maryland).
The study included low-socioeconomic mothers and infants at ages 4.5 months, 7 months, 9 months, and 12 months to observe and assess attachment. Moms and infants in the study were ethnically diverse. Infants were selected for high levels of temperamental irritability.
The study gave scores to mother-baby pairs based on a mother’s response to the infant while the baby was crying, and when the baby was not crying. They looked at behaviors that would provide the infante with a secure base. Those behaviors included soothing to cessation of crying, and providing a present and safe base from which to explore.
In short, the researchers found that babies learned that their mothers were providing a secure base when mothers responded properly to the baby at least 50 percent of the time. The babies were able to form a secure attachment with their mothers, and this made the babies feel safe.
The main thing parents should take away from this study is that you don’t have to be a perfect parent. It is entirely possible to have your baby form a secure attachment to you if you respond appropriately to the baby at least half the time. Being a “good enough” parent will work.
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