Do “Unsettled” Babies Have a Higher Risk of Mental Illness as Adults?

Recent research from the Murdoch Institute found that out of 1000 babies studied, those who were extremely unsettled were ten times more likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues ten years later. As Dr. Tracy Cassels writes, “‘extremely unsettled’ was classified not just as sleeping problems, but a cluster of behaviours, including unsettled sleep, excessive crying, feeding difficulties, mood swings, and tantrums.”

Dr. Cassels suggests that even apart from the nature/nurture debate over what may cause this issue, we should consider parent reactions to this challenging baby behavior, and how potentially stressed and resentful parents may feed into a cycle of negativity that affects mental health as time goes on. She expresses compassion for both babies and caregivers with her three-pronged approach: identifying root causes of the unsettled behavior, supporting the rest of the family, and public outreach.

Key Takeaways:
—In a recent study from Australia, 3.4% of babies were found to be extremely unsettled, and those unsettled babies were ten times more likely to have mental health issues at age 11.
—Dr. Tracy Cassels of Evolutionary Parenting is concerned that apart from genetic and environmental factors, parental stress relating to this difficult behavior may be so severe that it affects the children’s mental health years later.
—Stress could be reduced by treating the causes of the unsettled behavior, providing support to all member of the family, and making the public aware of healthy approaches to parenting.


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