Want your child in Orange County to be smarter? New research says be a supportive mom


As parents in Orange County, we all want to give our children the best start in life. One crucial factor in shaping our child's general intelligence is maternal supportiveness. The recent Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project, which involved data from 1075 participants, found that maternal supportiveness consistently and positively correlated with a child's general intelligence.

The results were presented in the article "Maternal supportiveness is predictive of childhood general Intelligence," published in the June 2023 Journal Intelligence.

Maternal supportiveness is crucial to a child's cognitive development and general intelligence. It can take many forms, including emotional support, praise, and encouragement. Studies like the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project have found a significant link between maternal supportiveness and intelligence. However, other factors such as genetics, environment, and education can also impact a child's intelligence, and parents should focus on all of these areas to give their children the best start in life.

Understanding the Role of Maternal Supportiveness

The impact of familial environment, specifically maternal behavior, on a child's cognitive abilities, cannot be overstated, despite the contribution of genes and non-shared environment. For this reason, promoting maternal supportiveness can have long-lasting benefits on a child's intellectual development, especially in diverse populations like Orange County.

As parents, we have a unique opportunity to create a nurturing family environment, promote self-esteem, and encourage social-emotional learning that fosters our child's intellectual development. Recent studies have shown that maternal supportiveness influences general intelligence early in life and can persist until late childhood, even after accounting for other factors, such as the mother's intelligence.

The research findings indicate that children with supportive mothers tend to score higher on general intelligence tests, and those who are more responsive and interested in their parents' efforts to stimulate their thinking receive more encouragement from their mothers, leading to higher general intelligence scores.

The use of autoregressive cross-lagged panel models has shown that maternal supportiveness has a direct impact on future general intelligence up until the age of four and an indirect impact after that, continuing to affect general intelligence up until the age of 10 through the influence of general intelligence at age four. This effect on general intelligence as a whole underscores the crucial role of maternal supportiveness in developing general intelligence during the first ten years of a child's life.

Create a Nurturing Family Environment

As parents, we can promote maternal supportiveness by creating a nurturing family environment. This means spending quality time with our children, being emotionally available, and providing a safe and secure environment. By doing so, we can help our children feel loved and supported, which can significantly impact their cognitive abilities.

One way to create a nurturing family environment is by establishing a routine. Routines can provide structure and predictability for children, which can help them feel secure. Additionally, listening to our children and validating their feelings is essential. Acknowledging their emotions can help them build emotional intelligence and learn how to regulate their emotions.

Another way to promote maternal supportiveness is by modeling positive behaviors. Children often learn by observing their parents, so modeling behaviors such as empathy, kindness, and cooperation are essential. This can help them develop these traits and create a positive family dynamic.

Lastly, it is vital to remember that maternal supportiveness is not just about the mother. Fathers or other caregivers can also be critical in creating a nurturing family environment. By working together and supporting each other, we can create a loving and supportive family that helps our children thrive.

Promote Self-Esteem

Another way to promote maternal supportiveness is by promoting our child's self-esteem. This means encouraging our children to believe in themselves and their abilities. Doing so can help our children develop a positive self-image, which can lead to higher general intelligence scores.

Encourage Social-Emotional Learning

Finally, we can encourage social-emotional learning. This means teaching our children how to manage their emotions, develop healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions. By doing so, we can help our children develop the skills they need to succeed in life, including higher general intelligence scores.

How Orange County Parents Can Promote Maternal Supportiveness

Orange County parents can play a crucial role in promoting maternal supportiveness. Resources like the Orange County Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Collaborative can support at-risk parents, and other service providers can also play a role in recognizing the need for additional support.

This collaboration has developed a perinatal mental health toolkit that equips service providers with the knowledge and tools to identify parents who may need additional support. This is particularly important because perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are a common but often unrecognized complication of pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, in California alone, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men experience significant symptoms of depression or anxiety during the perinatal period.

These disorders can affect parents from all walks of life, but they are more prevalent among mothers facing multiple stressors. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the maternal mental health crisis, with African American mothers disproportionately affected by PMADs.

As a result, we must prioritize the screening and treatment of PMADs to ensure the well-being of both parents and children. While screening is typically carried out by obstetric or pediatric healthcare providers, other sectors, such as home visitors and Help Me Grow, can also play a role in recognizing the need for support and connecting parents to the necessary resources. Orange County parents and service providers can contribute to the optimal development and well-being of young children and their families by championing perinatal mental health.

Understanding and promoting maternal supportiveness can have long-lasting benefits for a child's intellectual development, particularly in diverse populations like Orange County. Orange County parents can significantly advance maternal supportiveness and create a positive and nurturing family environment that can help shape their child's general intelligence during the first decade of life.

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