Colleen Sharkey | April 18, 2019
For decades in the U.S., there have been competing theories of how best to raise children, from the early 1900s belief that mothers should not be clingy to parents’ embrace of Dr. Spock. Parents want to optimize their “nests,” knowing physical elements like shelter and psychological elements like emotional support affect child development.
University of Notre Dame Professor of Psychology Darcia Narvaez specializes in this kind of research, studying the evolved nest (or evolved developmental niche; EDN).
Components of EDN include breastfeeding for two to five years, nearly constant touch, responsiveness to a baby’s needs, multiple responsive adult caregivers, free play with multiple-aged playmates and positive social support for mom and baby. EDN can also entail soothing perinatal experience (before, during and after birth) and a positive, welcoming social climate. “All these are characteristic of the type of environment in which the human genus lived for 99 percent of its existence,” Narvaez noted.
A paper published by Narvaez and her colleagues at the Notre Dame Family Life Project in Sage Open highlights how taking a snapshot of a young child’s experience over a week, as reported by a parent, is predictive of child outcomes. The measure — the EDN — was tested in three countries: the U.S., Switzerland and China. Parents of 3-to-5-year-old children indicated how much self-directed play, family togetherness, affection and (lack of) corporal punishment the child received in a week. They also completed validated measures of child social and moral development and mental health.
Read more here.