According to new research from the University of Cambridge and University College Dublin, parents who frequently use harsh disciplinary tactics with their young children may be putting their children at risk of developing long-term mental health problems.
The study, which examined data from 7,500 Irish children, discovered that children exposed to ‘hostile’ parenting at age three were 1.5 times more likely than their peers to have ‘high risk’ mental health symptoms by age nine.
What is Hostile Parenting?
The researchers defined hostile parenting as the use of harsh treatment and discipline, both physical and psychological, on a regular basis, which could include shouting at children on a regular basis, routine physical punishment, isolating children when they misbehave, damaging their self-esteem, or punishing them in an unpredictable manner, depending on the parent’s mood.
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The study also discovered that mental health professionals, teachers, and other practitioners should be aware of the potential impact of parenting on a child who is exhibiting signs of poor mental health. According to the study, providing additional support to parents of children who are already considered at risk could help prevent these issues from developing.
Effects of Harsh Parenting To Children
The study found that middle childhood is a time when girls, children with single parents, and those from higher-income families are more likely to show concerning mental health symptoms. This suggests that other factors besides parenting influence mental health outcomes.
Although people widely recognize parenting as a factor influencing children’s mental health, most studies haven’t examined its impact over time or how it relates to both internalizing and externalizing symptoms.
These findings call on parents to reconsider their parenting styles and seek support and resources to implement more positive discipline methods. They also emphasize the importance of practitioners providing early intervention and tailored support for children who are at risk of experiencing mental health difficulties.
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It is also important for parents to seek assistance if they are having difficulty managing their child’s behaviour. Counselling or therapy can equip parents with tools and strategies for dealing with difficult situations without resorting to harsh punishment.
The study’s findings emphasise the importance of nurturing a child’s emotional well-being. Parents can help their children develop into resilient and emotionally healthy adults by promoting positive and healthy forms of discipline. Avoiding a hostile emotional climate at home may not prevent poor mental health outcomes, but it will almost certainly help.
Finally, the link between harsh discipline and long-term mental health problems is concerning, emphasising the need for more positive and effective approaches to discipline. Even in difficult situations, it is critical for parents to prioritise their children’s emotional well-being. We can help our children grow into emotionally healthy and resilient adults by using positive reinforcement, setting clear boundaries, and seeking help when needed.
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