Megan Williams
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Apr, 14

Half an hour with mother boosts child’s skills for life

Children’s intelligence and social skills can be significantly affected by the activities they do with their mothers, scientists have suggested.

A 16-year study of 8,000 children found that those whose mothers concentrated on educational tasks, such as helping with homework or reading books, grew up to have better cognitive abilities. Those whose mothers focused on recreational activities, such as singing or painting, had better social skills.

The conclusions were reached as a result of a long-running study of environmental factors that affect development, using data from the Millennium Cohort Study. The research was not able to prove that mothers’ interventions were what made the difference. It is possible that sociable mothers are more likely to play with their children, and also more likely genetically to have sociable children. But Marco Francesconi from the University of Essex said parents should take notice. “I would estimate that just half an hour is enough to make a real difference,” he said.

“While children who spend more time doing educational activities will go on to do better in university and in the workplace, children who spend time doing recreational activities are less aggressive, and integrate better into groups.”

He added that simply giving children attention could combat inequalities. “If you imagine two families — one with a mother with a university degree and another with a mother who has had no education at all — we know that the child of the mother with no education is much more likely to do badly in school.

“Our study shows if the mother with no education spends a lot of time doing educational activities with her child, she can make up half of the difference.”

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