Does personality start in the womb?
If you’ve ever needed more reasons to relax, take it easy and have fun during pregnancy, here’s a good one: there’s a chance your baby’s personality may be shaped by your activities and emotions.
That’s because personality, many researchers believe, starts to form in utero. While genetics play a huge role in how new babies respond to stimulation, react to unexpected circumstances and deal with emotions, researchers in the growing field of prenatal psychology have found that environmental factors and some of the things parents do — such as talking, singing or eating a diverse diet — also may have an impact on how their babies come out of the womb.
Defined as a combination of temperament, habits, responses and ways of thinking, personality is a complex and evolving thing. Whether a kid is introverted, extroverted or a mix of both could already be predetermined by the combination of genes passed down from both mother and father. But whether a baby is calm, happy-go-lucky, or even a good eater could be influenced by things the mother does throughout her pregnancy, as babies start developing their senses before ever entering the outside world.1
While playing classical music might not make a baby genius, it could be a calming factor for both mother and child that stimulates prenatal learning and cognitive development.2 Some researchers have found that singing songs and talking to your baby could have similar effects and familiarize babies with certain songs that could be comforting after birth.3,4,5 However, other researchers disagree.
Babies also can be born with accents. One study found that depending on what they’ve been hearing in the womb, a French’s baby’s cry could sound differently than an American baby’s cry.6
In terms of taste, a mother could help develop a little gourmand by eating a diverse diet of healthy foods that expand a baby’s palate even before they’re born.7 By eating lots of bitter greens and spices, for instance, a baby might develop a taste for complex foods and foods that are harder to like, as these flavors find their way through amniotic fluids. This could make the baby more open to trying new foods and be a little less picky later in life.
According to research performed by early development specialist Marcy Axness, Ph.D., several connections have been made between experiences in utero and certain compulsions, repetitive behaviors, fears and fascinations later in life. The air a woman breaths and even the emotions she feels combine to shape what a fetus is learning in utero. The more a woman stays in healthy environments and a positive mindset, the better outcomes her baby may have.8
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2Butler, G. (2016, June 20). Baby’s reactions to noise inside the womb. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from http://www.pnmag.com/pregnancy/babys-reactions-to-noise-inside-the-womb-2/
3Moore, K. S. (2011, July 29). Does Singing to Your Baby Really Work? Retrieved March 15, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-musical-self/201107/does-singi...
4Trehub, S. E. (2001). Musical Predispositions in Infancy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 930(1), 1-16. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb05721.x
5Winkler et al., (2009). Newborn infants detect the beat in music. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(7), 2468-2471. doi:10.1073/pnas.0809035106
6Greenfieldboyce, N. (2009, November 06). Babies May Pick Up Language Cues In Womb. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120131516
7Cuda-Kroen, G. (2011, August 08). Baby's Palate and Food Memories Shaped Before Birth. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/2011/08/08/139033757/babys-palate-and-food-memories-s...
8Paul, A. M. (2011, July). What We Learn Before We are Born. Speech presented at TEDGlobal 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/annie_murphy_paul_what_we_learn_before_we_re_b...