(April 2011) by Dr Kate Baddock

Did you know how important it is to cuddle your child? Recent evidence has shown that 20% of parents do not think it is important. The other 80% do think it is important and that is a good thing. Especially as a leading epidemiologist from England is about to publish a study that supports those gut feelings that we all have about giving your child a cuddle. This study has shown that those children who are cuddled on a regular basis as three year olds, do much better when they grow up. They do better at school and they earn more as adults. This finding was true across all groups – whether they be rich or poor; the children do better as adults in terms of their learning and education, and in terms of their earning capacity.

There’s more. Not only is cuddling important but so is talking to your three year old. Do you all talk to your children every day? It’s another thing that affects their development. Having a conversation to your three year old is not silly or a waste of time – it makes a difference to their adult life. Just like cuddling, the benefits as an adult are huge – when children are talked to each day, they do better at school and they earn more later in life. The third thing that is so important to a three year old is being read to. Those three year olds who are read to every evening (and put to bed at a regular bedtime) again do better at school and earn more as adults.

These findings are incredible. We tend to believe that talking to, reading to and cuddling our children is good. But until very recently we did not know just how good. So for those of you who may be in that 20% who are not aware of its importance, now you know.

The thing about epidemiology is that it does not necessarily mean that one thing, e.g. cuddling, is the cause and one, e.g. earning more, is the effect. What it means is that there is an association between these two things. That where the parent spends time with their child – cuddling them, talking to them, and reading to them, these same children do better when they grow up. There may be other factors that are not taken into account but even so, these are powerful arguments.

So begin now and make a difference for your child.