Parents, Stop Hovering! You May Be Harming Your Child's Mental Health, Study Says

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Social & Emotional Growth: Tweens, Research Reveals: Tweens, Social & Emotional Growth: Teens, Research Reveals: Teens


Helicopter parents, you may want to ease up on all that hovering when it comes to your kids: A new study shows your overprotectiveness may make your children more likely to develop psychiatric disorders.

Kosuke Narita and researchers at Gunma University in Japan scanned the brains of 50 20-somethings, and had them fill out surveys about their relationships with their moms and dads through age 16, New Scientist reprots. The Parental Bonding Instrument survey (PDF) included rating statements such as "Did not want me to grow up," "tried to control everything I did" and "tended to baby me," according to the magazine.

"Narita's team found that those with overprotective parents had less grey matter in a particular area of the prefrontal cortex than those who had had healthy relationships," New Scientist reports. "Neglect from fathers, though not mothers, also correlated with less grey matter."
The magazine says "this part of the prefrontal cortex develops during childhood, and abnormalities there are common in people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses."

The researchers propose too much attention or neglect can lead to an excessive release of cortisol, a stress hormone, and reduced production of dopamine, New Scientist reports.

But Stephen Wood, a researcher in adolescent development at the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre in Australia, tells the magazine parenting styles don't necessarily cause brain abnormalities.

"He points out that the subjects studied may have been born with the abnormalities and as a result didn't bond well with their parents, rather than vice versa," New Scientist reports, adding that Wood "takes issue with the study team's decision to exclude individuals with low socioeconomic status and uneducated parents -- two factors known to contribute to poor performance in cognitive tests."

Related: Families of Mentally Ill

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