Effects of depression, stress and other factors on cradling bias in Saudi males and females
Alzahrani, Abdulrahman Derbash M.
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Several studies have reported a strong bias in both human and non-human species for cradling their infants to the left side of the body. Most studies suggest that the main reason this phenomenon is the predominance of the right hemisphere of the brain for the processing of emotions and its transference, through brain laterality, to the left side of the body. Many other variables, including handedness, footedness, stress and depression have also been found to have some effect on cradling side. However, no study has been published for an Arab population. Given the strong religious and cultural belief of most Arabs that only the right hand should be used for most daily tasks, this study investigated the affect on cradling side of this habit, in addition to the factors named above. 369 Saudi citizens took part in this study. 234 lived in Saudi Arabia and 135 had lived in the UK for five or more years. 267 were women and 102 were men. Each answered a questionnaire which asked about their ‘preferred’ cradling side and then the 102 men were videotaped spontaneously cradling a real infant and an infant-like doll. Unfortunately, only the male sample could be videotaped due to restrictions on filming females in Saudi Arabia. The results confirmed those of previous studies by showing a very strong bias to leftside cradling. No difference was found between males and females in cradling a doll, or between the Saudi-based sample and the UK-based sample but the bias was significantly reduced in men. Apart from the influence of gender, the factors that reduced the cradling bias for a real infant were found to be lack of experience of parenthood, depression, stress and greater age of the infant. In cradling a doll, the most influential variables were handedness, footedness and depression. Further work is required on Arab samples, especially in examining spontaneous cradling by women and its relation to depression and stress. A mother’s mental state is known to affect the health of the infant and cradling side could be a useful filter for neonatal women who might require psychiatric treatment. Further research could also shed light on gender differences in the processing of emotion.