Science Daily recently reported the results of a study involving more than 250 mothers over a five-year period.  The researchers evaluated the children’s difficult temperaments as well as the way that they were parented from the time the children were one week old to six months of age.  Later, participants were observed as the parents assisted their children doing challenging tasks when the children were two and a half years old and three years old. Finally, researchers surveyed parents by asking them to rate their children’s behavior when the children were in kindergarten and first grade.

A research scientist and the lead author of a report of the study’s outcomes, Michael F. Lorber, found that regardless of the child’s temperament, “…it was negative parenting in early infancy that mattered most.”  Examples of negative parenting include expressing negative emotions toward their infants and handling them roughly.  Additionally, the researchers noted that conflict between mothers and their toddlers was a precursor to behavior problems in their children later.  One theory is that mothers who parented their infants negatively may have more hostile children because they were more hostile toward their toddlers.  The researchers suggest “…the development of appropriate interventions that target negative parenting as early as three months to help prevent later conduct problems in children.”

An earlier study supports these findings.  In that study, researchers found that positive parenting of difficult children may mean more for these children’s development.  Often, difficult infants who are positively parented perform as well or better in first grade than their peers.