Receiving affection and support from parents during childhood lead to better well-being and moral capacities in adulthood, according to a new study. Childhood experiences matching evolutionary needs impact how adults behave and associate with society.

"Humans evolved with a nest of care for their young that matches up with the maturational schedule of the child. It was shaped over 30 million years ago and modified through human evolution," University of Notre Dame professor of psychology Darcia Narvaez said in a press release. "We call it the evolved developmental niche."

Soothing and naturalistic perinatal experiences, responsiveness to a baby's needs including sensitivity to the signals of the baby before the baby cries, constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate touch, extensive breastfeeding, playful interactions with caregivers and friends and a community of affectionate caregivers are components that the researchers asked participants to base their childhood reflection on.

Adults who reported receiving more of such parenting practices during childhood exhibited less depression and anxiety, greater ability to listen and compassion for others. Adults who received less of these practices reported poorer mental health, social anxiety and stubbornness.

"Our research shows that when we don't provide children with what they evolved to need, they turn into adults with decreased social and moral capacities," Narvaez added. "With toxic stress in childhood… it's hard to be compassionate when you are focused on yourself. We can see adults all around us who were traumatised or undercared for at critical times."

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