We who practice attachment parenting styles know that there are many benefits to the health and well-being of our children. Researchers from the University of Maryland have found that raising impoverished children in nurturing environments can positively impact their intelligence quotients (IQ).

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) looked at the data of more than 1600 children from Brazil and South Africa and followed them from birth through teenage years. They recently published results in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal, showing preschoolers who lived in impoverished communities but with access to nurturing home environments had significantly higher IQs in adolescence than when compared to those without nurturing environments.

The early adversities considered (extreme low birth weight, extreme poverty, prematurity, etc.) played a factor in the children's full learning potential, and the researchers found that prenatal and early life adversities did matter when it came to IQ later in life. The research team also found that of the adolescents studied, those who were exposed to multiple adversities earlier in their lives had lower IQ scores. They also were more likely to have problems with adjusting to psychological and social situations and were even physically affected with lower heights than when compared to peers with fewer early adversities.

But what they also found was that when those children exposed to early adversities were raised in nurturing environments, those environmental impacts could counteract much of the negative effect of their early childhood trauma and adversity, particularly when it came to IQs and children achieving full intellectual potential.

Dr. Maureen Black is one of the international study's corresponding authors, and a Professor of Pediatrics at the John A Scholl and Mary Louise Scholl school at UMSOM. Of their research findings, she said that adolescents who were raised in nurturing environments had IQs that were about 6 points higher than their peers on average when comparing to similar peers not raised in environmentally nurturing environments. Dr. Black said this was a significant and striking difference and one that had many implications for how to increase intelligence quotients of entire impoverished communities.

Nurturing environments led to better growth in the children, as well as fewer pscyho-social problems in adolescence, according to Dr. Black. Though it did not mitigate the effects of the early adversities on growth and psycho-social problems, the findings suggest that there is merit in attempting to lessen impact of impoverished and poor nurturing environments.

Across the world, over 250 million children under the age of five are at risk of not reaching full developmental and intellectual potential because of adversities they are victims of early in life. In the United States alone, nearly on in five children are raised in impoverished conditions and 15% of American children simply do not complete high school. Those rates are even higher in children of black and Hispanic families, with historically higher poverty rates in their communities. Dr. Black believes that this research shows how exposing these children to nurturing environments at home, daycare, or preschool settings can make an impact that will go into their adolescence and adulthood.

In America, where children are hungry, lack access to medical care and live in poverty, changes in environments can make a difference, Dr. Black believes.

Angela Trude is the study's lead author and a post-doctoral fellow in the UMSOM Department of Pediatrics. She said that parents generally want to provide those nurturing environments but in impoverished communities, it may be difficult due to work needs or lack of resources. She emphasized the importance of interacting with children in positive ways like singing together, playing games with numbers and letters, engaging in family chores and reading books from the library can make a tremendous impact. She also advises against screens as sitters, advocating more for interactive and engaging parental relationships.

And while those of us who practice attachment parenting have long known of the benefits in helping children grow into productive adults, the question still begs how parents in impoverished communities are to 'nurture' with interaction when they are often wondering simply how to put food on the table. That's where the value of community programs and mothers helping mothers can't be underestimated. It's easy for many mamas who have the flexibility in reading to and nurturing their children and being with their children on a regular basis to see the benefits and to practice in parenting style.

But for mamas who simply may not have resources or understanding of the importance, findings like this need to fuel more programs for education and support in impoverished communities.