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Stress contributes to compromised parenting

happy parenting

It’s not easy raising kids. It’s not easy being a mom in an economic downturn. Parents under long term stress run short on the patience, responsiveness and energy needed for effective parenting.

A research paper published in Development and Psychopathology this month now tells us that chronic stress and parenting are a toxic mix. Strains like poverty, depression, and insecurities disrupt the body’s natural stress response, making mothers more likely to fall into problematic parenting behaviors. Those include neglect, hostility and insensitivity.

“Stress gets under your skin,” said Melissa Sturge-Apple, assistant professor psychology at the University of Rochester and lead author. “It literally changes the way a mother’s body responds to the normal demands of small children and those changes make it much harder to parent positively.”

This is the first study to look at stress and parenting specifically. The finding show how the detrimental effect of living in poverty and with stress affects a n individual’s physiology and explains why people feel and act the way they do when faced with ongoing psychological or economic pressure.

Although stress is usually thought of as synonymous with lethargy, the study confirms that depression in mothers sometimes is linked to harsh, highly reactive parenting, not passive or disengaged parenting. The study confirms a biological basis for the behavior. The stress response system in a depressed mom is on high alert, oversensitive to social stressors and unable to calm down.

“Stress is not just in our heads, it’s in our bodies,” says Sturge-Apple.

Source: ScienceDaily, Development and Psychopathology

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