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Could harsh parenting make children hyperactive? Here’s what behavioral research says

University of Edinburgh researchers say they’ve found a link between tough parents and troubled children—but they’re not sure which of those comes first.

Could harsh parenting make children hyperactive? Here’s what behavioral research says
[Source Images: Malte Mueller/Getty]

Parents, take note: A new study has found a relationship between harsh parenting and socio-emotional problems in children, including hyperactivity.

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University of Edinburgh researchers came to this finding after analyzing a U.K. survey that tracked children from birth through age 17, collecting data roughly every two years. As part of the data collection, caregivers were asked how often they used harsh parenting tactics, such as shouting, smacking, or scolding; as well as “withdrawal” tactics, such as ignoring a child, sending them to their bedroom, or taking away treats.

Overall, the researchers found that harsh parenting and hyperactivity in children is a classic chicken-or-the-egg problem: Children with hyperactivity were more likely to have parents who practiced harsh parenting techniques, but parents who practiced harsh parenting were also more likely to have children with hyperactive behavior.

For example, researchers found harsh parenting techniques were associated with children who had hyperactive behaviors at age 5 and emotional behaviors at age 7. However, children who had behavioral problems at age 3 were more likely to have parents who practiced harsh parenting and withdrawal parenting at age 7.

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“Findings not only highlight that parenting practices, such as smacking, or shouting may have detrimental effects on children’s mental health but also that children presenting with behavioral issues may place additional strain on maternal parenting behaviors,” the researchers wrote.

The research was published in the journal Child Development. You can find it here.

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