Background: Parenting and parent–child relationships influence children’s emotional and social development and evidence exists that they may be life-course determinants of health. This study tests the hypothesis that adverse parenting in the early years predicts poor health in mid-childhood. Methods: A prospective study using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children cohort. Health data on over 8000 children (60% of those recruited) were available for analysis at 6.9 and 7.7 years. Exposures: self-reported maternal hostility, resentment and hitting/shouting in early childhood. Outcomes: maternal report of child’s health in general and number of health problems when the child was 6.9 and 7.7 years, adjusting for socioeconomic factors. Results: Sub-optimal parenting, as measured here, was observed among 62, 80 and 83% of families for hostility, resentment and hitting/shouting, respectively. Resentment was more common among older mothers in owneroccupied housing. Resentment and hostility predicted health at both ages independently of socioeconomic circumstances. ‘Hitting/shouting’ was weakly predictive of number of health problems. A greater proportion of variance was explained by parenting variables than by socio-economic variables. Conclusions: Parenting and parent–child relationships in the early years predict health in midchildhood in a way consistent with a causal role. If further studies replicate this finding, policies to improve parenting could be expected to have a modest beneficial impact on health as well as emotional and social development. As some aspects of sub-optimal parenting show reverse social class distribution, initiatives targeted at those living in social deprivation may not achieve the optimum impact on health.
Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research
Choose a citation style from the tabs below