The weight of a baby at birth could have an effect on how trusting he or she is as an adults, a study has found.
The research has helped scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark gain a better understanding of why some people are more engaged with society than others - and could act as an argument for encouraging safer conditions for women during pregnancy.
The study found that adults with a high level of trust tended to have a high birth weight. Conversely, individuals who had a low birth weight were likely to respond to certain sentences, such as ‘most people can be trusted’, in a way that reflected a low level of trust.
In a statement, scientist Michael Petersen said the motivation behind the study, called ‘Birth Weight and Social Trust in Adulthood: Evidence for Early Calibration of Social Cognition’, was to “investigate if experiences in the embryonic stage also have an impact on psychological patterns in adulthood”.
Published in the Psychological Science journal earlier this month, the study found the correlation between birth weight and trust remained even after taking into account genetics and family environment.
Mr Petersen said social trust was important for keeping society together.
“When we sort our waste, when we vote, when we pay our taxes, it’s all a function of how much trust we have in one another," he said.
"Therefore, it’s fascinating that we can trace trust all the way back to the embryonic stage. It helps us understand why some people involve themselves more than others in society, and why some are less involved,” he added.
Lene Aarøe, who co-wrote the research with Mr Petersen, said a better understanding of the factors leading to social trust brought us closer to "understanding the basic elements that ensure social coherence".