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Mental illness more likely for children of emotional women

Friday 16th June 2017
Which personality traits held by mothers are most likely to adversely affect their childrens mental health? Image credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via iStock
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The children of mothers who are impulsive, prone to anger and struggle with emotional attachment are more likely to struggle with their mental health, according to a new study.
Research carried out by doctors at the University of Bristol, University of Exeter and King's College London analysed data relating to more than 8,000 women who gave birth in the 1990s, exploring the impact that their personality traits have had on the mental health of their now grown-up children.
Mothers who demonstrated impulsive, angry, suspicious or sensation-seeking behaviour were more than twice as likely to have a child who struggled with anxiety, depression or self-harm in their teens and early 20s.
The researchers also looked at the impact on children when fathers displayed these traits, finding that the risk of mental health issues was not affected, which suggests that there may be a genetic link passed from the mother in some cases.
What's more, factors such as whether a mother was a binge drinker, had a poor level of education or smoked were not found to increase the risk of personality traits being passed on, as they were present in their children regardless.
Lead author of the study Dr Rebecca Pearson of the University of Bristol explained: "We know that if a parent has mental health problems themselves, their child is also at greater risk, but we know much less about the role of parents' personality."
These insights therefore suggest that more help and support should be offered to women who display these personality traits to ensure their children are not adversely affected by them in the future, as this has the potential to create a never-ending vicious cycle across the generations.
However, putting these women in touch with mental health support workers could help to make sure that both they and their children are able to receive the support they need to live a happy, healthy life.
Dr Pearson added: "Understanding what puts a child at risk of developing mental health problems later in life is crucial if we want to take steps to stop them happening in the first place or to treat them effectively if they do."
Written by Angela Newbury
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