A study carried out at Harvard University during the 1950s was conducted in order to gain insight into the link (if any) between the quality of individuals’ relationships with their parents and their physical health.
The participants in the study were 126 undergraduates and each was given a simple questionnaire with the aim of collecting information relating to how emotionally close each of these young people felt to their mothers and fathers.
The questionnaire presented three options for describing these relationships – I show these below :
- VERY CLOSE
- STRAINED AND COLD
The study was longitudinal, and the original participants were followed up THIRTY-FIVE YEARS LATER (meaning that they were now all in either their fifties or their sixties) and their MEDICAL RECORDS WERE EXAMINED.
THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY :
- 91% of those individuals who had, thirty-five years earlier, described their relationship with their mother as either TOLERANT or STRAINED AND COLD had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition by midlife ; these conditions included HEART DISEASE, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE and ULCERS.
- In the case of those individuals who had, thirty-five years earlier, described their relationship with BOTH their mother AND father as either TOLERANT or STRAINED AND COLD, this figure climbed to a staggering 100%.
ADDITIONAL FINDINGS :
- Amongst individuals in the study who described their relationship with their mother as ‘warm and friendly’, only 45% had developed a disease by the time they reached their fifties.
- Those who reported feeling loved by their fathers also developed lower rates of disease by the time they reached midlife than those who did not report a positive relationship with their fathers
Another similar, longitudinal study, carried out at John Hopkins University, found that students who reported impoverished emotional relationships with their parents were far more likely to have developed cancer by the time they had reached their forties and fifties than those individuals who had reported more warm and loving relationships with their parents,
The researchers concluded that, according to their findings and based upon their (non-random) population samples, the quality of the emotional bond with parents was the single most powerful predictor of the later development of illness and disease, including cancer and heart disease (more powerful, even, than drinking, smoking, parental divorce, death of a parent and exposure to environmental toxins).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).