Higher sense of autonomy make toddlers smarter

Children with a higher sense of autonomy are likely to possess stronger mental skills, says a study.

Higher cognitive skills are found in the children of mothers who are consistently able to support the development of their baby’s sense of autonomy, the findings showed.

“We have shown that the child’s executive functioning is linked to the mother’s ability to support his or her autonomy,” said lead researcher Celia Matte-Gagne from the University of Montreal in Canada.

The researchers specifically looked at executive functioning, which refers to a range of cognitive processes involved in planning, paying attention and multi-tasking, among others.

“Autonomy support includes things such as teaching children problem solving skills and involves taking the child’s perspective while ensuring he or she takes an active role in completing tasks,” Matte-Gagne added.

Seventy-eight mothers and their children participated in the study.

The child’s executive functioning was evaluated at three years of age by using a range of adapted games that reveal a child’s ability to delay gratification, the strength of their working memory and their capacity to think about multiple concepts simultaneously.

The highest scores went to the children whose mothers were consistently among the best at promoting autonomous behaviour; conversely, those whose mothers were not doing so happened to score the lowest.

The study appeared in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.

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