Babies’ early social relationships influence life skills

Babies’ early social relationships influence life skills

By sharing experiences such as book-reading, cooking or pretend play with babies as young as two, parents can help shape their children’s lives for the better.


This is one of the valuable tips for parents highlighted in a new book on baby development written by Lynne Murray, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Reading.


The Psychology of Babies: How Relationships Support Development from Birth to Two is a new parenting guide which highlights how engaging children in activities early on encourages good skills and habits in later life.

The book explores issues including babies’ sleep problems, postnatal depression, managing defiant behaviour and using embarrassing ‘baby talk’.

Conversely it shows that children who do not participate in such experiences are more likely to be oppositional or aggressive later when older.

Professor Murray said:

“The early environment, and particularly early social relationships, are crucial shapers of a child’s development.  Although the parent/infant bond has existed naturally for generations, the modern science behind babies’ psychological development is very complex.

“Understandably, people are concerned about children’s cognitive development, academic school performance, and their mental health and well-being.  Research shows that consistent, high quality care in the first two years sets children on a positive developmental pathway that has an impact on that person in their adult life.”


Professor Murray has worked extensively with babies whose mothers are depressed, anxious or living in deprived circumstances. Her research shows that the difficulties depressed parents have with their babies – noticing the baby’s signals and cues, being able to respond to them appropriately and enjoy being with them, especially when these difficulties persist over several months – are associated with an increased risk of difficulties in the child’s development.

Professor Murray continued:

“It is important to help parents understand their baby’s needs and signals, so that positive cycles of relationships can be built up, and so that negative behaviour patterns do not become too entrenched. We know that the longer they go on, the more firmly established they become, and the more difficult it is to put things right in later development.”

The book shows how much of what parents do naturally, in ordinary ways, is very helpful to babies’ development but that different parenting skills are required in different situations.


The Psychology of Babies: How Relationships Support Development from Birth to Two by Lynne Murray (Constable and Robinson, RRP £16.99) is available from all major book retailers.

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