Positive neighbor involvement important if teens don’t develop mother-child bond

Teens who live in neighborhoods with trusted, engaged adults can still develop critical social skills that were not nurtured early in life, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Previous studies have shown the importance of early mother-child bonding that contributes to teens having social skills, such as positive behaviors that optimize relationships with others, solid academic performance and self-management of emotions.

But what happens when that connection isn’t formed? Social cohesion — or the trust and bonds among neighbors — can benefit the adolescents, researchers said.

The study focused on social skills among 15-year-olds as a function of early attachment between mothers — also considered primary caregivers — and their 3-year-old kids, as well as neighborhood social cohesion.

Data from 1,883 children ages 1, 3 and 15 came from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a nationally representative study of children born in 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000.

The present study asked 39 questions to determine the children’s attachment, such as “is easily comforted by contact or interaction with mother when crying or otherwise distressed.” A higher score indicated a greater level of security in the child’s attachment with the mother.

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