FRIDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Infants who spent at least
one night a week away from their mothers had weaker bonds with
their mothers than infants who were with their mothers every night,
a new study finds.
The findings are important in light of the growing number of
American parents who don't live together and have some form of
joint custody, said study lead author Samantha Tornello, a doctoral
candidate in psychology at the University of Virginia.
She and her colleagues analyzed data from thousands of children
born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. Among parents who
were not living together, about 7 percent of babies who were less
than 1 year old and lived primarily with their mothers spent at
least one overnight a week away with their fathers.
Among toddlers aged 1 to 3, about 5 percent spent between 1
percent and 35 percent of overnights away with their fathers. And
nearly 7 percent spent 35 percent to 70 percent of overnights with
For babies whose primary caregivers were their mothers, those
who spent at least one overnight a week away with their fathers had
more insecure attachments to their mothers than those who had fewer
overnight stays with their fathers or spent time with their fathers
only during the day -- 43 percent vs. 16 percent.
The findings were not as strong among toddlers, according to the
study in the August issue of the
Journal of Marriage and Family.
Although the study tied overnight separation to less secure
attachment in babies with their mothers, it did not establish a
Attachments are defined as an enduring, deep, emotional
connection between an infant and caregiver that develops within the
child's first year of life, according to Tornello. Attachments
during the first year of live form the basis for healthy
attachments and relationships later in life, even in adulthood.
While the primary caregivers in this study were mothers, fathers
can also be primary caregivers, Tornello noted.
"We would want a child to be attached to both parents, but in the case of separation a child should have at least one good secure attachment," she said in a university news release. "It's about having constant caregivers that's important."
The Nemours Foundation has more about
bonding with your baby.