Healthy Kids from Loving Parenting
Mother Teresa famously said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” A new research project is testing the notion that teaching mothers how better to provide both love and bread is worth the expense and effort it requires.
Hands to Hearts International (HHI) supports universal parenting skills that foster loving attachment between caregivers and vulnerable children, thereby promoting healthy neurological, emotional, and physical development. It also emphasizes the importance of love and the critical role of bonding and attachment, which establishes the base for all future relationships and a healthy social fabric.
The Fetzer Institute is partnering with HHI on research in Odisha, India to deepen understanding on the role of love in early childhood. The case will study and evaluate HHI’s approach and the effects of their program on child health.
A key premise is that there is residual positive impact created through a multi-level intervention: that is, not only is there demonstrable good that comes from showing love and compassion to developing children, but also that knowledge about nutrition and care techniques pays further dividends.
“No baby comes with an instruction manual,” HHI founder Laura Peterson says. “It’s only recently that a lot of science has come out talking about the first three years and the critical brain development that either does or does not happen during that time, and the lifelong impact. That interaction sets them on a path toward health or disease.”
The research aims to test hypotheses on three critical levels in raising healthy children able to love and accept love. Connections within loving child-caregiver relationships is the first; the impact of HHI’s interventions on the strength of those relationships is the second and the hypothesized “ripple effects” of improved relationships among caregivers and in the larger community are the third.
Developmental results of children whose mothers have been exposed to HHI training will be compared with control groups living in an adjacent area who have not received the interventions.
Findings will be shared via workshops and scholarly journals and may be used to inform child welfare agencies working with vulnerable children.
Update: In February 2014, HHI founder Laura Peterson was recognized as an Unsung Hero of Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Wisdom in Action.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Non-Governmental Organizations.