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How lousy parenting can be passed on to the next generation

Posted May 10

Poor parenting practices can be handed down from one generation to the next, a University of Rochester researcher recently told a gathering of pediatricians.

Beating, yelling and neglect are all examples of poor parenting that appear to show up in subsequent generations, Anne-Marie Conn said.

Wrote Maggie Fox of NBC News, "And yet, Conn told a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore on Tuesday, parents often are keen for guidance — and they'll trust their pediatricians to provide it. She believes pediatricians are in a unique position to ask parents about their parenting styles, and advise them about ways to change bad habits their own parents may have taught them."

The conclusion was based on interviews that Conn and her colleagues conducted with parents at their clinic. They asked about their own adverse childhood experiences and also those of their children, counting up those experiences and trying to quantify what happens.

According to the NBC News report, "When parents had four or more of these bad experiences, their children were nearly six times more likely to already be showing signs of social or emotional problems, Conn and colleagues found."

Conn also listed fallacies that underpin some of the poor parenting choices they make. Among those she noted were that picking up a crying baby spoils it or that boys who cry are weak. The list included 15 common mistaken notions, from the idea that boys need to take an absent father's place as "man of the house" to the idea that good children are always obedient. She also countered the belief that children who bite others should be bitten to show them what it's like or that spanking is needed to get children to behave.

Conn pointed to a recent study showing that spanking doesn't accomplish what parents hope it will — and can be bad for children in the long term.

That just-released study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan School of Social Work found that behavioral, social and cognitive issues may be tied to spanking. It was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

In an interview with the Deseret News, the lead researcher, Elizabeth Gershoff of UT Austin, said, "We found spanking was related to less of all the good things. And it was not significantly related to compliance. It did not make children more or less likely to comply. It doesn't achieve what parents want: compliance and acting appropriately in the future."

Among unintended consequences to which spanking might be linked were "increased aggression, anxiety and depression," she said.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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