Is being an overprotective parent hurting my children? The Impact of Parental Relationships on Longevity: New Findings
A new study from Brazil suggests that children who are given more freedom have a greater chance of living longer. The study, which was conducted by scientists at the Federal University of São Carlos and University College London, analyzed data from 941 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) who passed away between 2007 and 2018. The results indicate that men who had overprotective fathers during childhood were at a 12% higher risk of dying before the age of 80, while women who had an overprotective father were at a 22% higher risk. However, if a woman was well-cared for by her mother during childhood, the risk of dying before the age of 80 decreased by up to 14%.
The study found that the quality of maternal care appeared to have a greater impact on longevity than paternal care. Researchers believe that this is because women who were “well cared for” by their mothers may have experienced lower levels of stress during childhood and adulthood. Conversely, neglected children may experience higher levels of stress later in life, which can lead to an increased risk of disease and reduced longevity.
The study also noted that men who lived with only one parent during childhood had a 179% higher risk of dying before their 80th birthday. The researchers emphasized that it would be incorrect to attribute the higher risk of early death to a past event without considering the presence of diseases and problems in old age. They controlled for these variables and analyzed the correlations involving factors present in a subject’s childhood with premature mortality regardless of their health in old age.
While the data analyzed for the study pertained to the “baby boom” generation born after World War II, the authors suggest that it is impossible to conclusively state that the experiences of more recent generations have been different. “We know parents now overprotect their children differently, and this may also have an impact. It’s a different kind of relationship, but it also has its fragilities,” says Tiago Silva Alexandre, a professor of gerontology and one of the study authors.
In conclusion, the results of the study suggest that children need parental care and support, but not intrusion, which deprives the child of autonomy. The middle way is best, avoiding both intrusiveness, which stops children from being autonomous, and negligence or emotional distance. “What we call care in the article is a matter of not neglecting but being present and taking care without overprotecting,” says Aline Fernanda de Souza Canelada, the first author of the study. Public policy should support better conditions during childhood so that people can enjoy old age.
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