11 science-backed ways your parents' behaviours shaped who you are today
- Business Insider analysed research that has shown many ways our parents' behavior shapes our own habits.
- A mother's mental health has a significant effect on their child's behavioral and emotional problems, according to one study in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
- A 2015 study in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that people perform better in school if their parents set high expectations during childhood.
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Whether your parents were your best friends or you barely knew them, your relationship with Mom and Dad had an impact on who you are today.
At least that's what Sigmund Freud said when he theorised that our adult personality develops from early childhood experiences, an insight empirically tested by attachment theory and developmental psychology through the 20th century up until today.
Countless studies and extensive clinical research have found links between your parents' behavior during childhood and how you act as an adult. If your mother was constantly juggling multiple jobs, you're likely to suffer from stress. If your parents set high expectations for you, you were more likely to perform better in school.
Here are 11 ways your parents' behavior impacted who you are.
If your parents constantly berated you for not making your bed, they were actually doing you a favour.
Children who grow up doing chores take on more responsibility at work instead of waiting for tasks to get assigned to them, according to Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of "How to Raise an Adult." They also better collaborate with their coworkers and can better empathise with others.
Doing your chores as a kid can even lead to being more happy down the road, a Harvard grant study that followed people for over 75 years found.
"By making them do chores — taking out the garbage, doing their own laundry — they realise, 'I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life,'" Lythcott-Haims previously told Business Insider. "It's not just about me and what I need in this moment, but that I'm part of an ecosystem. I'm part of a family. I'm part of a workplace."
A study tracking more than 700 American children over 20 years found that when parents taught their young kids social skills, like how to be helpful or cooperative with their peers, they were more likely to earn a college degree and have a full-time job by 25.
Those without social skills were more likely to drink and get arrested.
Parents who lied to children to prevent them from getting hurt or needing to have difficult conversations may have done more harm than good.
"Parents can inadvertently sabotage their relationship with their kids through telling white lies meant to protect their kids from the realities of life that may be scary," psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman told INSIDER. "When kids find out the truth, they may feel [like they] can't trust their parents to keep them safe."
Even if parents encourage body positivity in their kids, making negative comments about their own appearance still leads to bad self-confidence.
Constantly hearing your parents call someone fat or make comments about other people sends signals to children about which bodies are better than others, psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson told INSIDER.
A 2015 study in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found children whose parents expected them to go to college performed better on tests than parents with low expectations. The trend occurred among both wealthy and low-income families.
Children born to teen moms who did not finish high school were less likely to finish high school or go to college, according to a 2014 study led by University of Michigan psychologist Sandra Tang.
The amount of time parents spend with their children when they are between 3 and 11 years old has little impact on their academic and emotional well-being as adults — but the mental state of parents (especially mothers) has a significant effect.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found when mothers are stressed, sleep-deprived, or anxious, it can lead to behavioural and emotional problems, as well as lower math test scores.
"Just don't worry so much about time," report author Melissa Milkie told the Washington Post on advice she would give mothers.
A study out of Harvard Business School found daughters of working moms in the US earn 23% more than girls raised by stay-at-home moms. They also complete more years of college and work in more management roles than other girls.
"It's not that it's right or wrong for women to work," the study's lead author, Harvard Business School professor Kathleen L. McGinn, previously told Business Insider. "It's that there's a set of options that seem fully available."
When parents foster loving environments around the time children are as young as three, those kids grow up to score better on exams, according to a 2017 paper in the US National Library of Medicine.
Rebecca Bergen, a licensed clinical psychologist, told MyDomaine that if your parents told you to "describe how you feel" or used words to express complex feelings, you can better communicate during adult romantic relationships.
"Styles of communication are often formed by observation and direct experience of our primary role models in childhood," Bergen said.
Parents who shelter their kids by using their status, wealth, or privilege may be setting their adult children up for failure, according to Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College. These parents value outward appearances of success over teaching their kids tough life lessons, Gray wrote in Psychology Today.
Children of these parents end up more prone to anxiety, Graham Davey, a professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, wrote in a blog on Psychology Today.
"Given that genetic inheritance is not an overwhelming contributor to the variance in our anxiety levels, this strongly suggests that anxiety may somehow be socially 'transmitted' within the family," Davey wrote.
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