Hugging, kissing and cuddling in childhood apparently makes for a happy adulthood.
According to a 36-year study, affection rather than strictness and discipline is the best guarantee of a child’s healthy development. And wealth, status and stresses such as divorce or alcoholism are less important than tender loving care in predicting a satisfying life.
“Frankly, it was a surprise to find that a stressful childhood did not preordain difficulties in later life,” said Carol Franz, the Boston University psychologist who led the study. “It was clearly the parents’ warmth that mattered.”
In 1951, three Boston psychologists studied nearly 400 kindergarten children and their families. Mothers were asked how much time they spent cuddling and hugging their children, whether they enjoyed playing with them and how they reacted when the children cried. The mothers also reported the degree of warmth and affection between the husbands and the children. Many years later, a second set of researchers tracked down 94 of the “children,” now 41.
At midlife, only 30% of the children of cold, distant parents grew up to have satisfactory adult social lives. They were likelier to be divorced, estranged from their own children and unhappy with their jobs.
“But those from affectionate families had enjoyed long and relatively happy marriages, children, friends and recreational activities,” Franz said.