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New Study Shows How Babies Understand Adult Depression

Posted by Brian Spence on Nov 23, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Depression, Anxiety, Behavioral Health, Infant, BabyIn the past, we tended to associate babies as dependents who sought others for their own needs and emotional support, but a new study is showing that babies are far more aware of others emotions.

Research with 18-month old babies by human developer Sabrina Chiarella at Concordia University shows that these little ones can detect and react to various emotions appropriately.

To prove this, Chiarella set up her experiment in two ways: with one-half of the 71 babies that took part in the research, she played a sad person when toys were taken away. The other half saw her remain calm when the toys were taken. In reaction, the babies that saw her as sad and dejected showed more concern for her than the babies who saw a more composed person.

The babies' reactions are telling in how they can understand signs of sadness and depression in others.

Unlike younger babies (such as those at 15 months of age), these babies have a more nuanced understanding of relating past events with current feelings or conditions, and will react in appropriate ways. They also end up trusting a person more if their emotional reactions match specific events correctly--such as happiness when something good happens--but are less trustworthy of someone who conveys a confusing emotional response to events.


Overall, babies don't merely understand the difference between facial expressions, but rather, have a pretty sophisticated understanding of emotions in relation to actions and reactions. Not only can this help parents, but it can also help us delve deeper into understanding how much emotions can shape ourselves as we grow up. For more information on this and related topics, visit the Behavioral or Mental Health sections of our blog.


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Topics: Behavioral Health, Mental Health

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