Is your mommy (daddy) guilt eating you alive?
Do you think that you should be more focused on your infants’ needs than on other relationships right now?
Maybe you even have concerns about demanding your spouse’s attention when it’s the baby who needs it most.
This recent study of parents’ cognition will help you enjoy fight this guilt, at least when you socialize with your spouse.
This study published in Scientific Reports, claims that physical proximity of co-parenting partners leads to a better understanding of stimuli from the infant.
Physical Presence of Co-Parenting Partners and Parental Understanding
Humans have always practiced bi-parental rearing of their children. But how does this translate into better parenting? Or more specifically, how does this result in better understanding their infants and infants’ needs?
According to the study conducted by Nanyang Technology University, Singapore, those parents who share residential space and remain closer to each other show higher synchrony in brain areas related to attention, cognition, and affect regulation related to the infant-triggered stimulus.
It means that any voices generated by the infants would receive similar attention from both parents if both parents spent most time of their day in physical proximity. (That means that this synchrony will only grow during social distancing.)
From other studies, we know that higher synchrony among partners relates to higher emotional stability which, in turn, prevents stress and leads to better parenthood.
The researchers were studying the factors which caused the partners to synchronize. The first factor was the time they spent in physical proximity and the second factor related to the physical presence of partners when they were tested for synchrony.
To know which factor had a higher impact on this synchrony, the researcher put forward 3 hypotheses:
This synchrony will be highest when both partners are collectively attending to the stimulus.
This synch will be higher with true couples and would lower significantly with randomly paired partners.
This synch will be higher when the partners spend the most time in physical proximity.
The team employed emotionally healthy individuals and parents who were rearing infants. It used functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study the brain signals.
There were two settings. In one setting, the couples attended to the stimuli, infant and adult vocalization, separately. In the other setting, they had to attend the same cue separately.
The first set of results proved that synchrony was higher when parents attended the vocalization together.
The second set also confirmed the common sense: true parents, who had previously shared parental duties, showed greater synchrony than those who were randomly partnered.
The third set of results was interesting. The synchrony was higher in those couples who spent the most time in physical proximity and varied with the number of children per couple and parents’ age.
The third conclusion is the most interesting part of the whole study. It shows one route to better parenting and that is to spend more time with your parenting partner. This will not only make you more attuned to your baby’s needs but also allows you to create a buffer against stress that often comes with parenting an infant.
So, even when your house has become a nursing home because of the arrival of an infant, consider remaining in closer proximity to your spouse. Your baby will only thank you for this.
Source Articles: Azhari, A., Lim, M., Bizzego, A., Gabrieli, G., Bornstein, M., & Esposito, G. (2020). Physical presence of spouse enhances brain-to-brain synchrony in co-parenting couples. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-63596-2
Thorson, K., & West, T. (2018). Physiological linkage to an interaction partner is negatively associated with stability in sympathetic nervous system responding. Biological Psychology, 138, 91-95. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2018.08.004