If a mother responds more sensitively to her baby during playtime, the child
is less likely to display callous, unemotional behaviour as a toddler, new
research has discovered. Callous and unemotional behaviour includes a lack of
guilt and empathy, reduced concern for others’ distress and difficulties with
An infant’s preference for a person’s face, rather than an object, is
associated with lower levels of callous and unemotional behaviour during
childhood, the findings showed. ‘This study takes us a step further in
understanding the earliest origins of callous and unemotional behaviour,’ said
co-researcher Rachael Bedford from King’s College London in Britain.
The study involved 213 five-week-old infants. The researchers assessed if the
infants spent longer tracking a person’s face compared to an inanimate object –
in this case a red ball. Greater tracking of the face relative to the ball was
linked to lower callous unemotional behaviour when children were two and a half
years old. ‘Callous and unemotional behaviour in children are known to be
associated with an increased emotional burden on families as well as later
criminality and anti-social behaviour,’ Bedford concluded.
The study appeared in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
How much time does your child need from you?
There is no definitive answer to this question as one can never associate the
time with a specific number of hours. ‘One should keep in mind that children
below four years of age need their parents or at least the mother or a primary
caregiver around them for most part of the day and night. As the child grows he
might need his parents less, however this depends on a child’s emotional needs
to feel secure and safe. No two children are alike and so their needs will
largely be different,’ advises Dr Pavan Sonar, consultant psychiatrist,
Riddhivinayak Hospital, Mumbai. Ideally parents have to gauge the needs of their
children carefully and make sure that either one of them is there with the child
when he needs emotional support or some morale boosting.
How do parents realise that their kids need more time with them?
This is tricky but not a difficult one especially for parents. This comes
from experience and is an intrinsic quality of being a parent. ‘Parents are the
best people to judge their children’s temperament and gauge their needs.
However, this can only be possible if the parent has spent quality time with the
kid during the first formative four years,’ explains Dr Sonar. Here are a few
signs that might indicate that your child needs a little more attention from