Mums, this is how your strict behaviour affects your child's health

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If you are an authoritative parent and like being a little strict with your child, you should be reading this now!

Are you one of those mothers who follow the authoritative parenting style and like being a little strict with your child? If yes, then researchers say you need to stop doing that now as it could affect your child's health later on in life!

A new study says that being too strict and authoritative with your kids puts your your child at an increased risk of being obese. What’s shocking is that kids could also suffer from poor physical and mental health in adulthood, says the study.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California-Davis and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and found the link from harsh parenting to physical health is buffered by a warm and nurturing coparent.

The study findings

For the study, scientists videotaped the observations of 451 two-parent families and assessed their parenting style and behaviour. They also observed the changes in the child’s health over a period of several years from adolescence to early adulthood. The study was one of the first of its kind to use sample date from observed parent-child interactions and then evaluate the changes in the child's health over several years from adolescence to young adulthood

  • Alarmingly, when they measured the effect on BMI(body mass index), the health risks associated with harsh parenting as warmth from the other parent increased.
  • It should also be noted that no parent in the study group was observed hitting their adolescent, however, according to researchers there were other signs of physical aggression, such as pinching and pushing.
  • The results indicated that the differences in physical health and BMI were not evident at the beginning of adolescence. The effects persisted into young adulthood even after many had moved out of their homes.
  • The researchers also said that one parent’s attempt to counterbalance the harsh behaviour was not always helpful in lowering the health risks.

The negative effects of harsh parenting

“Harsh parenting creates a chronic stressful environment that children can be exposed to for nearly two decades. It leads to problems with physical health and no matter how hard a spouse tries, they may not be able to erase those effects. Instead of saying, ‘I’m the law and my wife is the gospel’ or something like that, it is better to acknowledge that in terms of harshness, your spouse is not going to be a buffer for the child, so behave responsibly,” said lead study author Thomas Schofield from Iowa State University in the US.

In the study, "harsh parenting" was defined as parents who reject, coerce, are physically aggressive and are self-centred.

"This exposure can have a lasting effect on the developing brain during childhood and early adolescence. The best thing we can do is encourage parents to not be harsh. If we want to make sure we’re protecting children’s health and positive physical health into young adulthood, the best and safest conclusion is to avoid being harsh," he advised.

The study was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

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