437 Parent-Child Transmission of Stress

Research by Waters, Sara; Karnilowicz, Helena; West, Tessa; & Mendes, Wendy (2020) . Keep it to yourself? Parent emotion suppression influences physiological linkage and interaction behavior. Journal of Family Psychology,34(7), 784-793. doi:10.1037/fam0000664

Written by Robin N. Fatovic B.S.

Should parents suppress their emotions to protect their children from experiencing stress? To answer this question researchers studied 107 parent-child dyads. They exposed the parents to a stressor and told half to“show no emotions” and half to “act naturally as you would at home” when reuniting with their children. The researchers measured their physical symptoms of stress by attaching sensors to the parents and children. Results? Children who engaged with mothers who suppressed their emotions experienced more physical stress. However, fathers who suppressed their emotions did not influence their children’s stress response. Instead, the children’s stress influenced the fathers to experience more stress. When parents suppressed their emotions, both parents and children appeared less warm and engaged when communicating with each other. Stress impacts both our minds and bodies. And your stress can impact others’ minds and bodies too. While parents sometimes try to hide their emotions from their children to protect them, the result can be counterproductive. Parents, it is acceptable to feel emotions and express your concerns. Be genuine. Yet, let them know you will be able to handle the emotional stress and you will protect them. Show them how to cope well.

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