A study (Stafford et al.) conducted at University College, London suggests that individuals who have been brought up by psychologically controlling parents during their childhoods are at significantly greater risk of suffering from mental health problems in later life than those brought up by less psychologically controlling parents.
EXAMPLES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTROL OF CHILDREN BY PARENTS MEASURED IN THE STUDY :
- invading the child’s privacy
- encouraging the child to be excessively dependent
- not allowing the child to make his / her own decisions
THE STUDY (PARTICIPANTS AND METHOD):
The study tracked 5,632 individuals from their birth in 1946, all were from the U.K. Information was gathered via questionnaires about their relationships with their parents and, also, about their mental health during the following periods of their life :
- their 30s
- their 40s
- and when they were between the ages of 60 and 64.
What Specific Problems Can Those Brought Up By Psychologically Controlling Parents Develop?
According to the study, those brought up by psychologically controlling parents can develop various problems including :
- failure to become autonomous
- failure to develop strong sense of own identity
- failure to learn from mistakes and conflicts
- increased likelihood of being ‘insecurely attached‘ which, in turn, increases probability of developing relationship problems in later life
In combination, the above factors had a powerful and enduring adverse effect upon the individuals’ mental well-being throughout their lives.
What Types Of Parental Behavior Help To Ensure Their Off-Springs’ Mental Well-Being :
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that the most important parental behaviors that help to ensure their off-springs’ mental well-being were their care (e.g. listening to, and displaying understanding of, the child’s problems), warmth, friendliness and responsiveness.
Comparing The Effects Of The Mothers’ Treatment Of Their Children And The Fathers’ Treatment Of Their Children :
CHILDHOOD TO MIDDLE-AGE : the mothers’ and the fathers’ care were found in the study to be of equal importance during these stages of the individuals’ lives.
DURING THE INDIVIDUALS’ LATER LIVES : the fathers’ level of care had a greater positive impact on their mental well-being in comparison to the mothers’ level of care.
CONCLUSIONS DRAWN BY THE RESEARCHERS :
The researchers concluded that, given the vital role parents (both mothers and fathers) play in the mental health of their children, government policies need to reflect this by helping parents reduce their stress via economic interventions and the encouragement of a healthy work-life balance, thus providing them with more time and energy to develop positive relationships with their children, which, in turn, should help to produce mentally healthier adults.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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