Harsh Parenting Will Stunt Your Child’s Brain Growth, Says A New Study

·5-min read

For generations, spanking and yelling at children by parents have been normalised across the globe. It’s interesting to note how this is universally accepted irrespective of the country, region or demographic.

Sadly, harsh parenting also brings along with it effects that often plague children long after they’ve grown up. And now, there’s scientific proof to back this up.

Harsh Parenting Effects: Less Grey Matter In The Prefrontal Cortex

harsh parenting effects
harsh parenting effects

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A recent study supports that harsh parenting effects can stunt your child’s brain growth. The study published in the journal Development and Psychology examined the brains of 94 children between the ages of 12 and 16 years.

These children experienced harsh parenting when they were younger during the ages of two and a half up to nine years.

The study grouped the children based on how often they experienced yelling or hitting. Kids with more exposure to harsh parenting showed less grey matter in their prefrontal cortex region and amygdala. These are the areas of the brain associated with emotional and mental wellness.

Speaking about the results, Sabrina Suffren, the lead researcher on the study said, “The implications go beyond changes in the brain. I think what’s important is for parents and society to understand that the frequent use of harsh parenting practices can harm a child’s development. We’re talking about their social and emotional development, as well as their brain development.”

The new study builds on a 2019 study, which showed kids exposed to harsh parenting, showed decreased brain function. Suffren says the findings of the new study are both “significant and new.”

It needs to be noted that the children in this study were not subjected to typical conditions of abuse. Previous research showed that abuse can impact how the brain develops.

However, this is for the first time that harsh parenting effects just short of serious abuse have been linked to decreased brain structure size.

Suffren says this is similar to “victims of serious acts of abuse.”

Difference Between Occasional And Constant Harsh Parenting

The study emphasised that parents who snapped at children occasionally weren’t the ones doing long-term damage to their child’s brain.

Instead, parents enforcing harsh parenting practices constantly on kids resulted in long-term damage. The study determines that repetitive exposure to harsh practices was the root cause of the damage.

What Is Harsh Parenting?

Constantly yelling, hitting, neglect and emotional abuse can be termed as harsh parenting. This just runs short of toxic or bad parenting that includes physical and sexual abuse along with deprivation of food, and more.

While bad parenting will have legal repercussions, harsh parenting often gets swept under the rug in the name of disciplining your child.

It’s understandable to have an occasional outburst when your kid is throwing tantrums or exhibiting unruly behaviour. But if it’s a constant problem and prompts strict disciplinary action, it may point towards a larger problem at hand.

Effects Of Harsh Parenting

harsh parenting effects
harsh parenting effects

Image Source: Pexels

Children who endure constant harsh parenting are more at risk of having emotional issues. They can develop depression, anxiety, aggression and more. It can also create negative behaviour. Some of the harsh parenting effects on children include:

1. Negative self-perception

Constantly using negative labels for your child or name-calling can cause serious damage to your child. It contributes to the kid’s low self-esteem, while also pushing towards shy/introverted behaviour.

2. Rebellion

Children who have overtly strict parents can show mental health issues like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and an overall negative mindset.

Some children tend to shut down from others due to mental strain, while there are others who turn rebellious as they grow older. These kids tend to fight with their parents and break rules inside and outside the home.

3. Behavioural problems

Harsh parenting can cause behavioural issues in children including aggressiveness at school. Some children may turn to bully other kids to vent out their own frustrations.

There’s also a chance of kids with a history of constant harsh parenting may lash out at teachers and other kids in school.

4. Substance abuse

One of the more serious concerns of harsh parenting can be substance abuse at an early age. Children can tend to do drugs and alcohol to escape their internal conflict.

How Can You Stop Harsh Parenting?

Harsh parenting can be a sign of unresolved issues that you have, which you may be projecting on your child. Not only are you putting your child’s mental health at risk, but you are also affecting your own by encouraging this toxic behaviour.

To counter harsh parenting, mums and dads will have to undergo a major session of introspection to reassess their parenting techniques. Nevertheless, here’s what you can do to become a better parent.

  • Listen to your child’s feelings

  • Give your child love and attention

  • Let them make mistakes and learn from it

  • Discipline when necessary but in an appropriate manner

  • Let them be kids

At the end of the day, your child needs a parent who is both protective and loving. And spanking or yelling does him/her no good. So rethink your parenting strategy if that’s been your go-to style thus far.

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