Strange but True: Unloving, Abusive Parents Mess Up Their Kids

Filed under: News, In The News, Weird But True, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens, New In Pop Culture

Abusive parents

Kids with abusive parents have emotional problems. Shocking. Credit: Getty Images

This just in! Being raised by abusive, uncaring and dysfunctional parents messes you up more than being raised by Ozzie and Harriet.

Strange but true.

How do we know abusing and neglecting children is a bad parenting strategy? Some researchers in Australia did an actual, honest-to-goodness study. The Sydney Morning Herald reports they collected data from some 1,000 young people ages 23 and 24.

And guess what? The ones raised by parents who beat them and told them they were no good and would never amount to anything had some emotional problems. The kids with loving, supportive parents felt a lot better about themselves.

The money spent finding this out was provided by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

"Children who grew up with supportive parents showed higher levels of personal strengths, social competence, trust and tolerance of others and an overall trust in authorities, like the police or government," lead researcher Diana Smart, tells the Morning Herald. "Laying those strong foundations appears to buffer young people from developing mental health problems."

In fact, researchers found that young people abused and neglected as kids were twice as likely to develop a condition known as "totally messed up" later in life. OK, maybe it's not known that way in clinical circles, but you get the idea.

The depression rates were more than double among kids raised by Darth Vader and Cruella De Vil.

In addition, the study found that 25 percent of kids from abusive homes suffered from persistent anxiety, compared with 14 percent of the kids who were members of the Brady Bunch and/or Partridge Family.

"The study shows that doing well in young adulthood relies on the active investment of parents' love, affection and encouragement during childhood," Australian Institute of Family Studies director Alan Hayes tells the Morning Herald.

However, Hayes adds it's not enough to just refrain from beating your kids.

"It's not just the absence of negative events that makes the difference, but high-quality parenting as distinct from the good-enough variety," he tells the newspaper.

Related: 10 Things to Say (and Not to Say) to a Teen With Depression

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