Science Shows Your Baby Knows When That Frown Should Be Upside Down

Throughout the day you are sure to elicit many emotions, many of which you don’t even realize are all over your face.

You smile at the neighbor when you pick your paper off the sidewalk, you scowl as you read the headline, and then you exhibit signs of despair as you spill some coffee walking back inside.

Now imagine holding your baby throughout those events, as they stare intently at your face. Could they be picking up more than you realize?

Science shows yes!

As if parents didn’t have enough to consider raising children, you now need to be wary of a downtrodden face during times of stress and anger.

Mothers are good at smiling and speaking sweetly to our little darlings but we don’t put as much thought into what our faces look like when we aren’t speaking to them directly.

The University of Manchester has published research in the journal PloS ONE that shows babies as young as 6 months understand angry tones in your voice.

Scientists were looking to find a relationship between your tone of voice and the “part of the brain related to interpreting the emotional nature of vocalization,Romper revealed about the study.

It was discovered that the brain began detecting an “angry” tone as early as 6 months of age.

Have you ever went off about something that you thought was to yourself, only to find that your baby was staring at your wide-eyed and curious, or even began to cry because they were startled by the behavior?

To look into this phenomenon, 29 mothers and their children were monitored during playtime.

Heading up the study is Dr. Chen Zhao, who noted that those parents who practiced “directive” parenting had children who were most affected by the exhibited emotions.

Dr. Zhao explains to Reuters what she means by “directive” parenting:

By ‘directive,’ we mean it in a very specific sense, that is, the extent to which a parent tends to behave and/or comment in ways that control or restrict their baby’s involvement in play or communication.”

The two strongest emotions, anger, and happiness, equally activated the fronto-cortical area of the babies’ brains when vocalized by the mothers, reports EurekAlert.

Activation in that brain area was even stronger when the mom spoke with anger directly towards the baby rather than in general.

So, when you think that your baby is too young to understand that you are upset that you have to change their clothes five times in the hour, think again.

Science Daily reports on Zhaos description of how in-tune your baby’s brain really is to your voice:

Brain science shows that babies’ brains are sensitive to different emotional tones they hear in voices. Such tones can cause different activation patterns in the infant’s brain areas which are also known to be involved in processing voices in adults and older children. These patterns also reveal that the early care experienced by babies can influence brain responses so that the more intrusive and demanding their mother, the stronger the brain response of these 6-month-olds is to hearing angry voices.”

Speaking in a soft, loving tone to our children is important even as a baby. They may not remember the words said, but they will have already made neural connections to those angry moments beyond the wisdom of their years.

It is already apparent from the moment of birth that babies have a strong attachment to their mother.

Think of how they want only mom to hold them when they aren’t feeling well, or how they immediately search for mommy when feel in danger.

This vulnerability should not be taken for granted and is an opportunity to give your little one the very best.

Children learn the most in the early years by mimicking behavior, becoming little mirrors for the good, and not so good, habits.

While these studies aren’t conclusive answers to the relationship between you and your baby, they do bring perspective on how our little ones connect with us.

Being a shining example to our children is a goal most moms have in common. Maybe now we can think twice on our reaction to life events.

Do we really need to slam our mail down in a huff when our Amazon package is delayed a day, or get upset when the kids won’t stop playing “how loud can I sing” when on the phone with the insurance company?

Probably not.

While it is important that your baby learn all emotions, the hope is that they learn them appropriately; and that they don’t misdirect any anger on themselves during interaction.

Please let us know in the comments section what you think about this study, and how it may change any interactions you have with your baby.

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