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Another Over-hyped Research Study

Recent headlines have proclaimed that strict parenting can change how a child’s body reads DNA, or even “hard-wire“ changes into a child’s DNA. Once again, however, the actual study doesn’t support the headlines. The researchers studied only 44 adolescents, and apparently relied on the teens’ self-reports of their parents’ styles. There simply is no way to have an objective measure of a person’s perceptions. The ages of the teens ranged from 12 to 16, which is a wide developmental range. The report also noted that many of the children who perceived harsh parenting styles “showed initial, subclinical signs of depression.” Depression can skew how people view the world, so it’s hard to know which came first, the depression or the teens’ perceptions. Finally, the study was presented at a conference, not published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The research does have intriguing findings that warrant further study. Until we have more extensive research that replicates these findings, however, we should not draw even tentative conclusions from such a limited survey.

The researchers, from the University of Leuven in Belgium, selected 21 adolescents who reported good parenting (for example, the parents being supportive and giving the children autonomy), and compared them with 23 adolescents who reported harsh parenting (for example, manipulative behaviour, physical punishment, excessive strictness).

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ausburn_deborah, youth services law, mental health research, insights