Harsh, Critical Parenting May Lead to Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Posted on June 3, 2015

New research suggests that parents who stoke their children with harsh scolding may also be saddling them with anxieties that last a lifetime. In a survey published last November, researchers collected childhood memories from more than 4,000 adults of all ages and correlated them with the participants' self-reported mental health. The findings suggest that children with authoritarian parents will have a harder time adapting to adversity later in life.

According to recent work by Greg Hajcak Proudfit, a clinical psychologist at Stony Brook University, punitive parenting has such a powerful and persistent effect because it trains a child's brain to overly emphasize mistakes.

When we make mistakes, our medial prefrontal cortex—just behind the center of the forehead—produces a predictable electrical pattern called the error-related negativity, or ERN. The ERN is thought to be the brain's way of pulling us back on track so that we won't make further careless mistakes. Evidence suggests that genetics can account for variations in the strength of the ERN among individuals, but Proudfit's work indicates that exposure to harsh criticism also comes into play.

According to Proudfit, children who are exposed to harsh criticism learn to internalize parental feedback until the ERN, normally a convenient caution sign, instead becomes a trigger for anxiety.

“Of course, everybody makes mistakes,” Proudfit says. “But if you're punishing yourself more or responding to your mistakes more than the next kid, then that may be the trajectory of risk that leads you into an anxiety disorder.”

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Adult psychological development

Source material from Scientific American

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