Latest Issue of Science News

Growth Curve

The inexact science
of raising kids
Laura Sanders

Growth Curve

Growth Curve

Babies are kinder after you dance with them

Music can cement social bonds, making babies more likely to help someone after they’ve grooved to a song, a new study finds. 

Sponsor Message

When Baby V was just weeks old and upset, her dad and I would sometimes swaddle her into a burrito and bounce her to the beat of Justin Timberlake’s Mirrors. Our belief that this particular song soothed her was more superstitious than scientific. But when faced with a tiny red-faced screamer, we didn’t have many options.

The particular rhythm of that song seemed to calm her (either that or the fact that the album version of the song is extremely long). Like many parents, we learned early on that certain music can have a powerful effect on babies.

Scientists have been studying just how babies respond to music for a long time, as my colleague Bruce Bower pointed out in his feature story on how music can connect parents and babies. (Bonus: If you want to see a baby dressed up as a symphony conductor, check out the cover for that issue of Science News.)

Babies clamor for melodies long before they can speak. And now, a new study finds that music can help forge new social relationships. Babies who groove to a beat with an adult are more willing to lend a helping hand. Fourteen-month-olds who were bounced to the same beat as the one an adult was jamming to were more likely to retrieve an object dropped accidentally-on-purpose by that adult than babies bounced to a different beat, scientists report June 12 in Developmental Science.

The jam in question was The Beatles’ Twist and Shout. While being bounced by a helper in a front carrier, a baby watched an experimenter bounce too, to either the same beat or a different one. Afterwards, the babies were surreptitiously tested when the experimenter dropped a clothespin or markers, or needed help reaching a paper ball. (A video by the researchers shows the setup, with a helpful toddler toddling over to pick up a dropped clothespin.)

When the baby and experimenter had grooved together, the babies were more likely to lend a hand, researchers found. A single song, it seemed, gave these babies simpatico feelings toward their fellow dancer.

This study and others like it are interesting, for sure, but they’re really just confirming what parents—and everyone, for that matter — already know. Music is powerful in its ability to delight, transport and bond. And babies know this too. 

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

Human Development

Kids’ me time may boost brainpower

By Laura Sanders 3:37pm, July 1, 2014
Unstructured play may give kids more opportunity to exercise their executive function, complex cognitive function that includes resisting impulses and paying attention.
Human Development,, Psychology

Your baby can watch movies for science

By Laura Sanders 11:49am, June 25, 2014
Any parent with a computer can let their kid participate in child development studies through a new website called Lookit.
Human Development,, Health

Pregnant women on the hook for calculating risks, benefits of fish

1:23pm, June 19, 2014
New draft FDA guidelines on fish for pregnant or nursing women make women do the math for how to maximize omega-3 fatty acids and minimize mercury exposure.
Immune Science,, Human Development

If timing’s right, cats and roaches may be good for kids’ allergies

By Laura Sanders 4:29pm, June 12, 2014
Exposure to mice, roaches and cats before a child’s first birthday may confer protection against asthma and allergies, a new study suggests.
Human Development,, Neuroscience,, Science & Society

Your baby: The ultimate science experiment

By Laura Sanders 5:18pm, June 4, 2014
Babies may be serious scientists, but parents can join the fun by trying some simple experiments with their kids.
Human Development,, Microbiology

Baby’s first bacteria arrive sooner than we thought

By Laura Sanders 9:30am, May 28, 2014
Forget what you’ve heard. The womb is most definitely not sterile.

Study on pregnant women’s driving has some potholes

By Laura Sanders 1:40pm, May 19, 2014
New study finds that pregnancy makes women get into more car accidents, but there could be a simpler explanation.
Human Development

Mom’s nutrition puts a stamp on baby’s DNA

By Laura Sanders 1:40pm, May 5, 2014
A new study is the latest in a growing list of how the environment sculpts a person’s epigenome.
Health,, Human Development

Induced labor doesn’t necessarily kick off cascade of interventions

By Laura Sanders 1:04pm, April 28, 2014
A large analysis of clinical trials finds that jump-starting labor actually leads to fewer C-sections, a finding that runs contrary to common birthing wisdom.
Evolution,, Human Development

Babies cry at night to prevent siblings, scientist suggests

By Laura Sanders 12:32pm, April 22, 2014
Babies who demand to be breastfed in the night might be delaying the birth of a sibling, scientist proposes.
Subscribe to RSS - Growth Curve