28/01/2014 09:17 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

'Cavemen Were Better Parents' Says Parenting Expert

Bin those parenting manuals. If you want to be a better parent, you just need to look back at our earliest ancestors to find out how it should be done.

Because according to one US psychologist, cavemen and women had much better ideas about being a parent than many 21st century families.

Professor Darcia Narvaez, from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, US, claims that the way we look after babies nowadays deprives them of the practices that lead to wellbeing and a moral sense.

We transport babies in buggies and car seats instead of carrying them, leave them to cry to 'teach' them how to sleep through the night, and many of us don't breastfeed at all.

She compares this with baby rearing methods from thousands of years ago and found that our ancestors were warmer and more responsive to their children. Babies were cuddled and carried about, never left to cry, spent lots of time outdoors and were breastfed for years rather than months.

'Warm, responsive care-giving like this keeps the infant's brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,' said Professor Narvaez.

'Our distant ancestors spent much of their time being held and caressed by their mother, forming a close bond. They were not spanked.'

Children also benefited from spending time playing outside and exploring rather than being kept indoors by themselves, and from being cared for by their extended families as well as their parents, said professor Narvaez.

Her findings, to be presented at a US conference next month, run counter to current advice from parenting gurus who advocate 'controlled crying' and to isolate children who have misbehaved by sending them to their rooms or to the 'naughty step'.

Separate research in Britain has also suggested an increase in mental health problems in children.

'There's an epidemic of anxiety among the young,' she said. 'Kids who don't get the emotional nurturing they need in early life tend to be more self-centered. They don't have the same compassion-related emotions as kids who were raised by warm, responsive families,' said Professor Narvaez.

What do you think? Is raising children much simpler than it's made out to be by TV programmes and experts?