Want to make sure your new baby will have healthy relationships later in life? Nurture the bond you have with him or her now.

A new study with 75 kids over a 20-year period found those with secure emotional attachments to their mothers were later better at resolving and recovering from relationship conflicts and enjoyed more stable, satisfying ties with romantic partners in early adulthood.

Meanwhile, those deemed to have an insecure attachment with their mothers reported more negative emotions when trying to resolve major relationship conflicts with their romantic partners two decades later.

“It’s often very difficult to find the lingering effects of early life being related to adult behavior, because life circumstances change,” said study author Jeffry A. Simpson, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. “People change, but there’s a kernel of stability from early experience in a lot of people.”

But before you worry about dooming your child to a lifetime of lousy relationships, Dr. Victor Fornari, director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, New York, adds a note of caution: “Certainly all of this begins in early childhood, but it’s not just the quality of the mother-infant relationship that determines the outcome.”

Simpson agrees, and even warns against blaming parents too much. “Usually when there’s a negative pattern of behavior with a mother and child, the mother is under financial or emotional stress … They’re often doing the best they can given their life circumstances,” he said.

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