By Margarita Nahapetyan
Children of parents who are depressed can experience very serious social and emotional problems, revealed the Growing up in Ireland report, noting that the parent-child relationship has greater impact on children's psychological well-being than family income or its structure.
The study on how families matter for children's social and emotional well being has revealed that the gap between the health of kids from rich families and those from poor households is quite recognizable at the age of three years and widens over time. Scientists, who for the purposes of their research interviewed more than 8,500 9-year-old children, their parents, and teachers in 2007 and 2008, came to the conclusion that conflict with parents and being close to the mother were both strongly associated with the child's social and emotional well-being.
The mental health of a mother turned out to be an important factor, with depressed mothers having high conflict and low closeness with their children. Also, according to the report, there were higher levels of misunderstanding and conflict between fathers and sons, while children in single-parent households were more likely to have tense relationships with their mothers.
Approximately 80 per cent of all the kids surveyed reported experiencing some kind of stressful event in their lives with the most common being the death of a close person (43 per cent) and moving to the other place (42 per cent). Following these events came the divorce or separation of parents (15 per cent), serious disease of a family member (13 per cent), and conflict between parents (12 per cent).
Children, especially boys, whose parents are very authoritarian, which means they are highly controlling and strict but provide very little emotional support, were found to experience behavioral problems. But children whose parents are neglectful and do not set certain rules, or just do not offer support also had difficulties with conduct. Only those kids were found to do better whose parents were warm and responsive but had certain ground rules, the style of parenting, called as an authoritative.
Twenty per cent of children whose mothers did not finish or had only finished secondary school experienced some sort of emotional problems, and overall those who lived in lower-income families tended to have behavioral problems as well as problems with their friends. However, the majority of nine-year-old kids surveyed were found to have good behavior and normal emotions. Being close to their mother was in particular important for girls' well-being, but not for boys. But surprisingly, the level of closeness with fathers did not have any impact on social or emotional problems of the kids.
Also, the reports states that certain characteristic features of children made them more vulnerable than others to experiencing poor social and emotional outcomes. Those kids who were very sensitive and emotional or had a strong reaction when they got upset showed more negative outcomes. Nine-year-olds who had some sort of chronic conditions were more likely to demonstrate higher levels of social and emotional problems. The most common problem that 9-year-olds reported to have engaged in was lying in order to get some goodies or favors.
Children with problematic behaviors such as initiating fights on a regular basis or causing physical pain to people or animals were found to have a temperament reflecting high emotion. When it came to teaching children discipline, 58 per cent of mothers said that they never used smacking as a discipline strategy. About 11 per cent of mothers reported using smacking from time to time. The use of smacking as a method to discipline a child now and again was mostly used in families with low income. The most frequently used discipline strategy for kids was having a conversation and explaining what was wrong with the particular behavior - 60 per cent of mothers said that they always used this strategy.