A mom’s instinct is to nurture her child. But some moms want to be involved in every aspect of their child’s life and most often put their children’s needs before their own. They make their kids the center of their universe. And they seem happy doing it. Yet maybe these moms aren’t so happy, according to a new study published in Springer’s Journal of Child and Family Studies.
This parenting style, known as intensive parenting (something akin to “helicopter parenting”), makes moms more likely to suffer negative mental health outcomes, found researcher Kathryn Rizzo, PhD, and her colleagues at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Intensive parenting is marked by the following philosophies: Women make better parents than men; mothering should focus on the child’s needs and not those of the mother; and children should be considered sacred, fulfilling and delightful to parents.
The study researchers sought to find a connection between this parenting style and increased levels of stress, depression and lower life satisfaction. Via an online questionnaire, 181 moms of kids under age 5 were asked to rate how strongly they endorsed five intensive parenting beliefs:
- Moms are the most capable parent.
- Parents’ happiness mainly comes from their children.
- Parents should always provide their children with stimulating activities that aid in their development.
- Parenting is harder than working.
- A parent should always put her child’s needs ahead of her own.
The study revealed that moms who adhered to at least three of the five beliefs were less satisfied with life, felt more stress and felt less family support than other moms in the study. Nearly one-fourth of them had symptoms of depression.
So why do these moms continue to practice intensive parenting? “They may think that it makes them better mothers, so they are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s cognitive, social and emotional outcomes,” the study authors wrote. “In reality, intensive parenting may have the opposite effect on children from what parents intend.”
Sometimes moms need to shift the focus away from their children—for their own good as well as their children’s. It may be one reason that studies show working mothers report far less depression than stay-at-home mothers. What do you think, moms?
By Maricar Santos