Can good parenting can help prevent children developing depression later on?

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According to research carried out by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), children who are brought up in homes where they feel unsupported or neglected in any way, have approximately double the risk of suffering from depression and mental health problems later on in life.

On the other hand, good parenting appears to help provide a protective buffer against developing mental health problems.

“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” said AIFS lead researcher Diana Smart as reported by AAP.

“Laying those strong foundations appears to buffer young people from developing mental health problems.”

The AIFS research involved analysing data on around 1000 young adults between the ages of 23 and 24.

Although practically all of the kids (94 percent) said they were shown love and affection from their parents, almost a quarter said they experienced some form of maltreatment during childhood.

The extent of maltreatment included 17 percent who said they suffered emotional maltreatment to 3 percent who said they were neglected, 18 percent who said they lived in poverty and 12 percent who reported growing up with a parent who indulged in substance abuse or who already suffered from a mental illness.

Of those who reported that they didn’t have supportive family relationships, 30 percent said they had gone on to experience depression compared to 12 percent who said they grew up with supportive parents.

Similarly 25 percent of those reporting unsupportive parents suffered from anxiety compared to only 14 percent of those who felt they had supportive parents.

“The study shows that doing well in young adulthood relies on the active investment of parents’ love, affection and encouragement during childhood,” said AIFS director Professor Alan Hayes.

“It’s not just the absence of negative events that makes the difference, but high quality parenting as distinct from the good enough variety.”

Parenting isn’t easy, particularly when there are other problems present like poor housing, divorce, step parenting problems, financial difficulties, and unemployment and so on, but in the light of this research it is vital that children feel supported throughout their childhood in order to lessen the risk of mental health problems later on.

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