SCOTTISH scientists have claimed that parents who talk to their babies are more likely to stop behavioural problems like ADHD.
Researchers found a lack of sounds between mother and baby increases the risk of the child developing emotional problems in later life.
The study, thought to be the first of its kind, also found if a parent speaks less there is a bigger chance the child would suffer depression.
Study co-author Philip Wilson, professor of primary care and rural health at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We have got the possibility that active parenting and active communication by the parents may have a protective effect against the development of problems with attention and conduct.
“The other main hypothesis is to do with genetics. We know people who themselves have ADHD or conduct problems tend to be more under-active and communicate less later on in life.
“So the second possible explanation is it may be the mothers themselves have ADHD and have become underactive and passed on the genetic vulnerability to the children.
“My hunch is that it is somewhere in between the two and it has probably got both things. The child probably has to have some genetic vulnerability to these conditions on the one hand – but on the other hand more engaged and active parenting might be protective.”
The researchers said the findings do not mean that failing to talk to your baby causes psychological and psychiatric problems but suggest “active” parenting may have a protective effect against ADHD.
People affected by ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – are easily distracted, tend to act more boisterously or fidgety and sometimes have a lack of awareness to things they do or say.
The research team analysed hundreds of videos from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (ALSPAC) of mothers interacting with babies just one-year-old.
When a mother reduced the words or sounds she made every minute the odds of an infant going on to develop such a condition by the age of seven increased by 44%.
Prof Wilson believed the study, being published in the journal Research In Developmental Disabilities, is the first that has compared early parental communications and the development of disorders using examples from the general population.
Study co-author Dr Clare Allely, a psychologist at Glasgow University’s Institute Of Health And Wellbeing, said: “We used 180 videos for this study of mothers interacting with their 12-month-old infants – of which 120 were controls and 60 were of the children who were later diagnosed with disorders at seven years old.”
In 2003, the National Literacy Trust launched a campaign to encourage parents and carers to talk more to children under three.
It was set up in response to concerns that too many children entered nursery and school with poor communication skills.
Cathy Hamer, manager of the Talk To Your Baby campaign, said: “The majority of brain development occurs in the first three years of a child’s life.”