Page last updated at 00:32 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Buggy direction 'affects child'

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Children who are put in buggies which leave them facing away from their parent could have their development undermined, a study has suggested.

Researchers found that youngsters in prams which face the pusher are more likely to talk, laugh and interact.

More than 2,700 parent-infant pairs were observed across the UK and a smaller study was done in Dundee.

Parents in away-facing buggies talked less to the child and the youngster appeared to be more stressed.

Face-to-face laughter

The research was carried out by Dr Suzanne Zeedyk from Dundee University, in collaboration with the charity the National Literacy Trust (NLT).

In total, 2,722 parent-child pairs were observed in High Streets in 54 areas around the country.

Dr Zeedyk then studied 20 babies being wheeled in prams across a one mile stretch in the centre of Dundee.

The children spent half the journey in an away-facing buggy and the other half facing towards their mothers.

Only one baby laughed during the away facing trip, while half laughed during the face-to-face journey.

For many babies today, life in a buggy is emotionally impoverished and possibly stressful
Dr Suzanne Zeedyk
The children's average heart rate also fell slightly when they were facing their mothers and they were twice as likely to fall asleep - which could indicate reduced stress levels, according to Dr Zeedyk.

Across the study, it was found that 62% of all the children observed were travelling in away-facing buggies.

The rate was even higher for those aged one or two at 82%

Parents with face-to-face prams were more than twice as likely to be talking to their child, however only 22% of all those observed were chatting with their youngster.

Dr Zeedyk said: "If babies are spending significant amounts of time in a baby buggy that undermines their ability to communicate easily with their parent, at an age when the brain is developing more than it will ever again in life, then this has to impact negatively on their development.

"Our experimental study showed that, simply by turning the buggy around, parents' rate of talking to their baby doubled.

"Our data suggests that for many babies today, life in a buggy is emotionally impoverished and possibly stressful. Stressed babies grow into anxious adults."

Dr Zeedyk called for a larger scale study to be carried out so parents could make the best choice about their child's development.

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