According to Narvaez, one of the reasons that the well-being of children in the United States lags behind that of children in other advanced nations is because "we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth."
Narvaez emphasizes six components: Soothing, naturalistic perinatal experiences; responsiveness to a baby's needs including sensitivity to the signals of the baby before the baby cries; constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate touch; extensive breastfeeding; playful interactions with caregivers and friends; and a community of affectionate, mindful caregivers.
Adults who report receiving more of such parenting practices in their childhoods display less depression and anxiety, greater ability to take the perspective of others and an orientation toward compassion. Adults who report less of these parenting practices in their childhood have poorer mental health, more distress in social situations and are less able to take another's point of view.
Narvaez, who joined Notre Dame's faculty in 2000, conducts research on moral cognition, moral development, and moral character. She writes more about the needs of children and adult morality in the book, "Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom," winner of the 2015 William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association.