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Stable Parent-Child Bond Is Necessary For Long Term Positive Effects On Child’s Health

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
Highlights
  • Children who suffer from abuse, mistreatment or lower levels of parental warmth have shown higher disease rates or inflammation as adults.
  • High socioeconomic status has been previously associated with better childhood nutrition, sleep, neighborhood quality and opportunities for exercise and development of social skills.
  • But good parent-child bonds may be necessary to enforce eating, sleep and activity routines and long term health benefits.
  • Therefore without adequate parent-child relationship quality, socioeconomic advantage during childhood may not offer much protection at all against major chronic disease as children become adults.
Being born to financially stable parents or a rich household is not enough to bestow positive effects to a child's physical health, years later. The lack of healthy parent-child bond, positive relationship or the presence of abuse may null the health effect of this privileged background, according to a Baylor University study.
Stable Parent-Child Bond Is Necessary For Long Term Positive Effects On Child’s Health
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Among the many relationships that humans form during the course of life, the parent-child bond is the most significant and enduring one which lasts life-long. A parent-child bond looks at how parents interact with their children physically, emotionally and socially. A child's physical and emotional development as well as social and cognitive behaviors depend on family dynamics.

‘Having constructive dialogues with children rather than forcing obedience encourages them to make healthy lifestyle choices, which offers long-term benefits to their physical health.’
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The most important developmental phase throughout the lifespan is the early childhood. Healthy early child development (ECD), which includes the physical, emotional, social and language/cognitive domains of development, strongly influences the physical well-being like obesity/stunting, heart disease, mental health and social interaction throughout life.

Child maltreatment is the abuse or neglect of child who is under 18 years of age. Consequences of child maltreatment include impaired physical and mental health.

According to the World Health Organization statistics, a quarter of all adults reported to being abused as children. In 2013, an estimate of 1,520 children died of child abuse and neglect in the United States according to the National Statistics on Child Abuse.

Very little is known regarding child abuse and neglect from middle and low income countries like India. The only national survey conducted to date on child mistreatment in India is by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007. As per this survey, 69% of children and adolescents reported physical abuse, 53% reported sexual abuse, and nearly 49% reported emotional abuse. In addition, nearly 71% of the girls reported facing neglect within the family environment.

"Previous research has associated high socioeconomic status with better childhood nutrition, sleep, neighborhood quality and opportunities for exercise and development of social skills. But good parent-child bonds may be necessary to enforce eating, sleep and activity routines," said researcher Matthew A. Andersson, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.

For the study, Andersson analyzed data on the status of disease or poor health of middle-aged adults drawn from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS).

Dr. Anderson surveyed 2,746 respondents aged 25 to 75 years in 1995 about their childhood treatment by parents. He conducted surveys again about 10 years later, with 1,692 of the individuals taking part. The follow-up analysis, adjusted for personal background in 1995 and for probability of dropping out of the MIDUS study, revealed that childhood abuse failed to provide any protection from disease or ill-health, despite being born with socioeconomic advantage.

Children who come from abusive backgrounds, wherein the parent-child relationships are strained, tend to overlook their food habits and consume snacks that are high in sugar and fat content as part of comfort eating. Their sleep pattern is disrupted and activity routines may also become irregular. Children are therefore not encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyle or social and emotional skills useful for successful aging.

On the flip side, good parent-child bonds in economically disadvantaged homes, while they promote health, do not seem to lessen the negative impact of low socioeconomic status as the children age, Andersson said.

Previous research has shown parents with less education and fewer financial advantages fail to have constructive dialogues with their children, which may lessen the warm relationship. They are likely to threaten or force obedience which may affect the relationship.

The study on Midlife Health and Parent-Child Relationships is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Children who suffer from abuse, mistreatment or lower levels of parental warmth have shown higher disease rates or inflammation as adults. Being free from 28 conditions like cancer, circulatory or respiratory disease, endocrine diseases, nervous system diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, skin or digestive disease and musculoskeletal conditions is the characteristic of health at midlife.

"Much research continues to view socioeconomic status and parent-child bonds as highly related or even interchangeable. But in fact they may quite independently influence a child's well-being," Andersson said. "The key takeaway is that without adequate parent-child relationship quality to match, socioeconomic advantage during childhood may not offer much protection at all against major chronic disease as children become adults and reach middle age."he added.

Positive parent-child relationship provides a foundation for child's learning. The child develops skills they need to succeed in life though parent's responsive and sensitive care. These have powerful effects on emotional well-being of the child as well as their physical health.

Few steps to maintain a healthy parent-child bond are
  • Good communication is an important parenting skill. Focusing on improving one's own parenting skill and behavior, by being calm and keeping reactions in check and by being consistent and honest in the relationship
  • Learn to respect the child's choices. It helps deepen the relation.
  • Be good listeners. Listen to their woes with patience so that they can be good listeners too.
  • Spend time with your child by sharing meals together, playing games, reading books and working together.
  • Make them feel that they are a priority in your life but not in control of your life.
  • Do not impose ideas or rules on them, rather, have fruitful conversations with them. Be firm yet understanding.
References:
  1. National Statistics on Childhood Abuse - (http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/media-kit/national-statistics-child-abuse)
  2. Child Maltreatment - (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs150/en/)
  3. Global Prespectives - Child Abuse and Neglect in India - (https:www.istss.org/education-research/traumatic-stresspoints/2015-august/global-perspectives-child-abuse-and-neglect-in-ind.aspx)
Source: Medindia
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