When moms and dads are bonding with infants, said report co-author Hal Stern, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, such everyday interruptions as phone calls and text messages can have long-lasting impact.
"It speaks to the importance of having regular patterns in your interactions with your child," he
said, "and a clear way to do that would be to kind of set the phone aside when it's reading time or play time."
Even though the study's first phase focused on rodents, Stern
said it showed that distractions can break the consistent rhythms that developing brains need to ensure the growth of robust neuron networks.
said children need greater assurance that when a parent picks up a book, for instance, that time really is reserved for them.
Researchers found that erratic care of infants can increase the likelihood of risky behaviors, drug and alcohol use, and depression in adolescence and adult life.
said that because mobile phones are so ubiquitous and bring an endless stream of calls, texts and social-media posts, the group's findings are especially important for today's parents.
"As children become adolescents," he
said, "one might expect effects on risk-taking behaviors, and an increased risk of emotional disorders and the like."
said the next step is to see how these discoveries in rodent behavior apply to people.