Published: 22nd March 2020
Study reveals that urban and rural infants showcase emotions differently
The study examined the differences in infant temperament, parent-child interactions and parenting stress between families of similar socioeconomic and racial composition
Infants from rural families are likely to showcase negative emotions, be it anger or frustration, more frequently when compared to their urban counterparts, revealed a new study.
Whereby, the study also took into consideration that babies born in big cities are typically less fussy and not as bothered by limits set by their caregivers.
The study, led by Washington State University psychologist Maria Gartstein and WSU graduate student Alyssa Neumann, examines differences in infant temperament, parent-child interactions and parenting stress between families of similar socioeconomic and racial composition in the Inland Northwest and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The research which got published in the Journal of Community Psychology found that urban moms tend to be better at picking up on when their babies wanted or needed something, or were ready to be done with play, and responding accordingly. This, in turn, could have led to their infants generally being calmer and less easily upset.
Rural moms reported more frequent expressions of negative emotions from their infants, particularly when they were distressed due to limitations.
The reason for this might be that "access to mental and behavioural health services and child-rearing resources tend to be limited in more rurally situated communities," she said.
For the study, Gartstein, Neumann, and colleagues at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and the Seattle Clinic analysed and compared data from two previously conducted studies of mother-child interactions and infant temperament.
The first study consisted of 68 participants and their infants in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the second consisted of 120 rural mothers and their infants from Whitman and Latah counties in the Inland Northwest of the United States.
Mothers used a questionnaire to record the frequency of 191 different behaviours their child displayed at six and 12 months after birth. The researchers then analysed babies along 14 different dimensions that ranged from cuddliness to vocal reactivity.
Parent-child interactions, where mothers were instructed to engage their infants in play in a typical fashion, were also video-recorded in the laboratory for analysis.
Gartstein said one of the more surprising findings from the study was that contrary to predictions, her team found no statistically significant differences in levels of parenting stress between urban and rural caregivers.
"This may be a result of different, but functionally equivalent, risk factors," Gartstein said. "Whereas living in a big city generally brings more exposure or proximity to violent crime, isolation can also cause a great deal of stress for rural parents," she added.
Gartstein's infant temperament research will also be featured in an episode of the Netflix documentary 'Babies' this summer.