Study: Great parenting may have an impact on your health
Find out what the results of new research has unveiled...
Could this be the absolute irony of being a wonderful parent?
New research is saying that empathetic parenting may have not so healthy physiological effects on parents.
Experts suggest that kids raised by nurturing, empathetic parents gain a multitude of benefits, such as more empathy, better reasoning skills and possibly even higher IQs.
But according to the study published in Health Psychology, being empathetic to the problems and hardships kids face may take a toll on parents' health, over time.
In particular, the results of this research found a strong relationship between parental empathy and elevated stress hormone production, as well as chronic, low-grade cellular inflammation.
In other words, when their kids suffer psychologically, parents immune systems are affected.
A survey was conducted among 474 pairs of American parents and their teenage kids to ascertain how frequently and to what extent parents empathise with their kids' feeling and show appropriate concern.
Blood samples were also taken to inspect markers of systemic inflammation, including interleukin 1-ra, interleukin 6, and C-reactive protein.
Upon analysis of both the survey results and the blood samples, researchers found that while empathetic parents and their kids were better off psychologically and the kids actually had lower levels of inflammatory markers, this was not the case for the parents.
The parents' blood samples revealed low-grade systemic inflammation.
The results of this study only confirmed the results of previous research published in Clinical Psychological Science, that also indicated parental health can take a toll over time, when they exercise empathy to their children's problems.
Why does this happen?
Showing empathy to another person involves pushing our own feelings aside and focusing on theirs. This, according to experts, is linked to higher levels of both cellular-level inflammation and stress, says a Quartz article.
Also, an empathetic parent is probably also more likely and willing to give up activities that could reduce the effects of the stress of caregiving -- such as exercise and adequate sleep -- in order to focus on their children's psychological needs.
Parents, this doesn't mean you need to throw empathy for your kids' issues out of the window. You just need to learn how to look after your own psychological and physiological health too.
Erika M. Manczak, a Northwestern psychology graduate student and the lead author of both studies, told Quartz:
“Things like getting enough sleep, exercising, and reducing stress are all related to these types of immune processes. It’s not selfish for parents to make time for those things—it’s actually critical for their own mental and physical health.”
So the next time you feel drained from listening to and empathising with your child's woes, go for a walk, grab a cup of green tea (or wine!), or basically, do something that helps you relax. You deserve it!
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