Infants are more likely to be influenced by parenting if their mothers suffered prenatal depression or drug and alcohol abuse, according to think tank Demos.
Its Building Character report says that “different pre-birth factors, including the ill-health or stress of the mother, may be hardwiring heightened susceptibility into the developing baby”.
The research notes: “Infants between birth and three years old are more malleable than they will be at any subsequent stage in their lives.
“A growing body of research suggests that due to genetic and/or environmental circumstances, difficult or emotionally-troubled infants are even more malleable than stable, healthy infants of the same age. In other words, certain children are more strongly influenced by good and bad care.”
The report says that while it is difficult to say why this occurs, evolutionary natural selection makes some children less susceptible than so they are better able to deal with the world around them.
It recommends that parents be helped to provide a warm and consistent upbringing for their child that will encourage youngsters to develop the skills they need to succeed in life.