Study: Bad Parenting Has Serious Long-Term Health Effects

Bad parenting has an immediate impact on a child's life — but research shows that children continue to pay a price by experiencing health problems well into adulthood.

Most adults who experienced childhood abuse or were negatively treated by their parents are highly susceptible to multisystem health risks such as heart diseases and diabetes than those adults who received affection and warm treatment from their parents, according to new research. Other studies show that children brought up by single parents have poor physical health in their adulthood as compared to children brought up in tw-parent household.

According to Sci-Tech Today, a study carried out by Judith E. Caroll, a researcher at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of California Los Angeles, on 756 adults who had participated in the study Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults showed that those with a negative childhood experience were at a higher risk of broad health problems. The study involved measuring 18 biological markers of health risk such as blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone among others. These risks were then added across the markers to create a summary index called "allostatic load." Values at the upper range across these markers indicated they were at higher biological risk for disease. A validated self-report scale called the Risky Families Questionnaire was used by researchers to determine the study subjects' childhood stress.

A study published online echoed the same findings, as a significant link between reports of childhood abuse and multisystem health risks was found, and those who reported higher amounts of parental warmth and affection in their childhood had lower multisystem health risks.

A senior author, Teresa Seeman of the David Geffen School of Medicine and Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA, testified that a link between childhood stress and future health exists:

"Our findings highlight the extent to which these early childhood experiences are associated with evidence of increased biological risks across nearly all of the body's major regulatory systems," she said. "If we only look at individual biological parameters such as blood pressure or cholesterol, we would miss the fact that the early childhood experiences are related to a much broader set of biological risk indicators — suggesting the range of health risks that may result from such adverse childhood exposures."

According to Counsel & Heal, researchers have paid particular attention to studying the effects of single-parent families on children. In a survey conducted by Cornell demographers that included data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, researchers reported that the teenagers who had mothers who were never married after they gave birth had comparable health to teenagers born to mothers who were divorced from the children's biological fathers and moved on to either cohabit or marry new partners. In rare situations, the researchers noted that when mothers married the teenagers' biological fathers, the children's health improved.

Sharon Sassler, a professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology, said that children have better health when their mother marries the biological father.

"We find that marriage is no panacea for single mothers," she said. "We are seeing health disadvantages in adolescents 14 or more years after their birth to a never-married mother. These appear to be associated with cumulative stressors on the mother from having a nonmarital birth, stressors that apparently also take a toll on children themselves over a long period. That suggests that interventions earlier in childhood and focused on ensuring health coverage and regular health visits for children born in less advantaged circumstances are important."

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