Happy parent-child relationships can benefit children’s health for decades

parent-child relationships

It is known that a family’s economic and social position is important for a child’s physical health. The influence can continue to adolescence and even adulthood.

Recently, a researcher from Baylor University in the USA finds that relationships with parents are also very important for individuals’ health.

In fact, good parent-child emotional bonds can moderate the impact of childhood socioeconomic status (SES). The finding is newly published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

The researcher used the data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the USA. He focused on respondents aged 25 or older. A total of 2,746 people’s responses were included in the analysis.

The researcher analyzed the parental SES, parent-child relationships during childhood (warmth vs. abuse), and burdens of chronic disease of each respondent.

The result showed that when the relationship quality between children and parents was low, the benefits of high childhood SES to individual’s health were reduced. This suggests that children depend on their parents in many ways to gain material and social advantages of high SES.

However, when childhood socioeconomic status was low, parent-child relationships seemed not to have an influence. This suggests that poverty or severe economic hardship may be a root cause of health problems in people with low childhood SES. In this situation, parent-child bonds may only offer limited compensation.

In addition, the result showed that childhood abuse could create a double threat to life course health. First, abuse itself could predict greater adult disease burden. Second, abuse could reduce the disease protection from high childhood SES.

The researcher suggests that parent-child relationship can modify the impact of SES on children’s health in later years.

Growing up in a warm home can benefit a child’s physical health even decades later, whereas a lack of parent-child warmth, or the presence of abuse may reduce the health advantage of a privileged background.

Citation: Andersson MA, et al. (2016). Chronic Disease at Midlife: Do Parent-child Bonds Modify the Effect of Childhood SES? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 57: 373. doi: 10.1177/0022146516661596.
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