New Study: Parents Stink

Filed under: Opinions

Another day, another article on how we parents can screw up our kids with our very best intentions.

I'm getting sick of these things.

Right now, a bunch of people are sending me this piece from the New Scientist because they think I'll love its message -- and headline: "Mom and dad, stop stifling me - it's damaging my brain."

Since I am on record as being anti-helicopter parenting, you'd think I'd be delighted to hear that a team of scientists in Japan scanned the brains of 50 people in their 20s, looking to see whether overbearing parents had literally stunted their kids' development.

After first asking the participants about their relationship with their parents growing up, the scientists found that the ones who said their folks "tried to control" them and/or made them "feel dependent" ended up with literally less grey matter in their prefrontal cortex than those who'd had "healthy relationships" with mom and dad. Then again, those who had been neglected by their dads -- but not their moms -- also had less prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain sometimes linked, when it's defective, to mental illness. All of which leads me to conclude...


First of all, what is the point of a study like this -- with just 50 subjects? What a tiny sample! And by the way: what college kid doesn't think their parents tried to control 'em?

More significantly: If kids who are neglected and kids who are smothered both end up at risk for mental illness, where does that leave us parents? Once again walking the tightrope of perfection: Pay attention to your kids, yes, but not too much attention, at least of the wrong kind. (And moms can neglect away?)

This is the kind of advice that can drive any parent crazy. Not only does it provide zero guidance, what it does provide is yet another way for us to beat ourselves up. Got a kid who's mopey or dopey or chews his shoes? That's because you ruined him. Maybe it was that day you told him to clean up his room.

Or the day you didn't.

The problem with these tiny, silly, never-ending studies is that they always set out to find some correlation between this and that, and somehow -- dear grant provider: your money was not wasted! -- they always do. It can be a tenuous connection that doesn't make much sense , but who cares? It's published and parents will read it and feel a little worse.

And that, it seems, makes it all worthwhile.

Related: Hot Diggity Death!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.