Page last updated at 11:50 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Newborns 'desire to communicate'

Baby feet
Many of the babies cried when communication was stopped

Babies are born with a strong desire to communicate and be understood, a study has suggested.

Dr Emese Nagy, from Dundee University, studied 90 newborns aged between three and 96 hours old.

She spent three minutes smiling, looking, talking to and touching the children, just like a mother would do.

She then froze her face and stopped responding and noticed that the babies looked away, became visibly distressed and many started crying.

'Basic need'

When communication was restarted, the babies took some time to rebuild their trust, by turning their heads and slowly re-establishing eye contact.

The crying eventually stopped as the babies became engaged again.

Dr Nagy said: "We all spend most of our social life communicating and relating to each other - it is crucial in our physical and mental well-being and health.

"To feel that we belong to the other is a basic need. This study showed that even newborn infants come to this world with a powerful sensitivity to the other person.

"They show eager readiness to relate, they have the skills to relate, and they protest when the other is there, but not responding to them."

Dr Nagy believes that such results may have implications for infant mental health by showing that newborns, from their first hours of life, are sensitive to disturbed communication.

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