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LONDON — Children pushed in buggies that face away from their parents may suffer long-term emotional and language problems, a study published on Friday suggests.
The research, believed to be the first of its kind, found that children who were not facing the person pushing them were less likely to talk, laugh and interact with their parents compared with those babies that did.
The findings were based on a study of 2,722 parents and babies and an experiment where 20 babies were wheeled in buggies for more than a kilometre, facing their parents for half the journey and facing away for the other half.
Parents using face-to-face buggies were twice as likely to talk to their children, the heart rates of the babies fell and they were twice as likely to fall asleep – an indicator that they were feeling relaxed and safe.
Additionally only one baby out of the 20 in the study laughed while sitting in an away-facing buggy.
“Our data suggest that for many babies today, life in a buggy is emotionally impoverished and possibly stressful,” said Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk, developmental psychologist at Scotland's Dundee University who carried out the research. “Stressed babies grow into anxious adults.”
The study, which was published by National Literacy Trust as part of its Talk To Your Baby campaign, found that 62 per cent of all children observed travelled in away-facing buggies, rising to 86 per cent between the ages of 1 and 2.
Dr. Zeedyk said it would adversely affect babies' development if they spent a long time in a buggy that undermined their ability to communicate with their parent at a time when their brain was developing rapidly.
Laura Barbour of the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity that funded the research, said buggy manufacturers should look closely at the findings.