Childrearing

Your Colicky Baby May Not Grow Up To Be A Serial Killer After All

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colicky babyMothers who watch their colicky baby with suspicion — and maybe saw We Need To Talk About Kevin too many times — take a deep breath. Those wails through the night, and the day, and the night don’t necessarily mean that your son or daughter will grow up with compromised mental health. Put that mother’s intuition aside for a moment and consider science’s assessment of the situation.

Reuters reports that colicky babies may not be destined to a life of mental health issues, despite worries from mothers.

Dr. Rebecca Hyde of Mater Children’s Hospital in South Brisbane, Australia reviewed the data of 3,100 young adults who were born in the early 1980s. When the kids were six months old, mothers were asked if their baby had colic, sleeplessness, as well as feeding problems and “overactive” tendencies. In this study, researchers determined that by age 21, these colicky babies had  “mental health [that] was on par with that of their peers.”

However, the findings did have much to say about these moms:

The study found that when moms said their baby cried excessively and had other problems “settling,” they were also more likely than other moms to report behavior problems once their child was a teenager…In this study, the 10 percent of infants with the most distress were more likely to have behavior issues later in life – based on their moms’ perceptions. Those mothers were between 60 percent and over twice as likely to say their children had problems like aggression, depression and withdrawal when they were five and 14 years old. But when kids were surveyed about their own behavior and mental well-being at age 14, the formerly colicky babies reported no more issues than their peers.

Dr. Hyde and her colleagues reportedly remain uncertain as to why some mothers with “fussy babies” are more likely to report behavior problems when there are none to account for. But she has one theory that involves mothers never quite getting beyond  — or in my own interpretation, recovering — from colic:

“It may be that the child’s early behavioral dysregulation has affected the relationship between the child and the mother, such that the mother continues to see the child as having problems, even when they do not,” she explained.

Despite that wonky mother’s intuition, Dr. Hyde maintains that “parents should be reassured that their children are not going to have long-term behavioral or mental health concerns” simply due to colick. She advocates maintaining a “positive relationship” with the screaming bundle. No pointers on that ambitious feat from Dr. Hyde, though, I see.

(photo: Galina Barskaya/ Shutterstock)