Anxious Mom Begets Anxious Teen

Amy Hendel Health Guide

    We all know that parents impact children in a number of ways.  We hand off certain physical attributes, predispositions to certain diseases, habits and a new study suggest that if mom is chronically stressed or if the family as a whole is exposed to stress or lacks social support, then small children in that family risk developing anxious and depressive symptoms as they near adolescence.  Anxiety and depression are actually the 2 most common mental problems for kids and teens.


    This study followed 900 families from the time that kids were 18 months old through their adolescence.  It found that:

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    • Maternal distress
    • Family stress
    • Lack of social support

    in the children's home environment lead to an increase of anxiety and depression symptoms when these children hit 12-13 years of age.  And girls specifically seemed more likely to develop these emotional problems.  Researchers assumed that's because naturally girls seem to "churn over problems" more than boys and earlier puberty may also make them more vulnerable when compared to boys.  Another attribute that might make these children more vulnerable is shyness.  Timid kids had a higher risk in these circumstances, of developing depression and anxiety problems.  And specifically in the case of boys, timid boys who were inactive had three times the rate of developing depression/anxiety when compared to timid, active boys.


    So what does this all mean?  Experts feel that society needs to find ways to identify families that are struggling with these multiple burdens and who also have little support systems or networks to turn to when raising small children.  The pre-school age seems to be especially vulnerable to stress/anxiety on the home front especially when Mom is the one suffering. If you are a family like this - seek help from a clergyman, health professional or other individual who may be able to connect you with health and social services.  If you know a family that seems vulnerable, offer to help them or at minimum make someone aware of their situation.  Doctors and teachers can be especially helpful in detecting these at risk families and kids.


Published On: July 23, 2008