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Mother-Infant Bonding

For my human growth and development class, we were assigned to write an essay about a
misconception that we had about the subject before we started taking this class. Here is the essay
I wrote: This course has opened my eyes to many new concepts as well as helped me to gain
more accurate knowledge of things that I had previously thought I knew about. Because of how
relevant the topics in this course are to my daily life, there are many interesting and surprising
things that I am able to learn every time I open the textbook or read some of the other course
content. Human growth and development is a field that has a lot of myths or old wives tales
which can lead to many misconceptions about some pretty important things. Having accurate
knowledge of the topics covered in this course could have a big impact on ones life as well as
how they view other people. One misconception that I previously had was that human child-
parent bonding can only occur immediately after birth through physical contact and only with
biologically related parents and children.
I have had this misconception about child-parent bonding for as long as I can remember.
I knew that the moments immediately after a child is born are extremely important for the child
and parent to bond with each other so I assumed that if this bonding is delayed, or occurs
between adoptive parents and children, it would create less of a strong bond. I also knew that
oxytocin, the hormone released during the time leading up to childbirth, is very important for
bonding so I thought that strong bonds would be harder to form without high levels of this
hormone present.
However, in chapter 4 of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Laura E. Berk states that
recent research on this topic shows that my previous thoughts were wrong. In order for parents
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to bond with their children and vice versa, close physical contact immediately after birth is not
necessary. Although there are very strong emotions present right after the child is born, these
feelings to not necessarily translate into a strong parent-child bond. There are many cases in
which the child has to be taken away from the mother immediately after birth because of health
complications or other reasons, and strong bonds are still able to be formed afterward. Another
interesting point made in the textbook is that adoptive parents, who dont have any of the
hormonal changes seen in biological parents, are still able to bond with their children and have
very close relationships.
This new knowledge had a lot of impact on me. My parents have recently adopted a baby
and although they were present at the hospital for the birth, they couldnt have close physical
contact with her until a couple of hours after she had been born. They worried that this gap in
time between her birth and meeting them, as well as the lack of hormonal changes due to not
being the biological parents, would prevent them from having as strong of a bond with her as
they do with myself and my biological siblings. There are definitely difficulties for parents to
bond with children that were adopted beyond infancy, but the first hour or two is not going to
have as much of an effect on the bond as I had previously thought.
To present this evidence to someone who hasnt taken this or any other human
development course, I would tell them that early human parent-child bonding is incredibly
important for the future relationship of the parent and child, but if it cant happen immediately
there will likely be no negative effects. Plenty of parents and children effectively bond even if
they cant be in close physical contact immediately after the birth for whatever reason. I think
this would be a really good thing to know for parents who are worried about bonding with their
newborn child. (Maher, 2014).
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References
Brockington, I.F., et al. A Screening Questionnaire For Mother-Infant Bonding Disorders.
Archives of Womens Mental Health (2001): SpringerLink. Web. 18 June 2014.
Eyer, Diane E. Mother-Infant Bonding. Human Nature (1994): SpringerLink. Web. 18 June
2014.
Feldman, Ruth, et al. Evidence For A Neuroendocrinological Foundation Of A Human
Affiliation: Plasma Oxytocin Levels Across Pregnancy And The Postpartum Period
Predict Mother-Infant Bonding. Psychological Science (2007): SAGEjournals. Web. 18
June 2014.
Maher, Melissa. Personal Misconceptions Essay: Mother-Infant Bonding. (2014).
Nagasawa, Miho, et al. "The Biological Perspective On Mother-Infant Bonding: The Importance
Of Oxytocin." Japanese Journal Of Animal Psychology 63.1 (2013): 47-63. PsycINFO.
Web. 18 June 2014.
Sockol, Laura E., et al. "Correlates Of Impaired Mother-Infant Bonding In A Partial Hospital
Program For Perinatal Women." Archives Of Women's Mental Health (2014): PsycINFO.
Web. 18 June 2014.