Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

Economic Recession Tied to 'Harsh' Parenting From Mothers

MONDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- When the economy takes a dive, some mothers may start using harsher discipline with their children -- particularly moms who carry a certain gene variation, new research suggests.

The study, of nearly 5,000 young U.S. children, found that when the economic recession hit in 2007, many mothers reported increases in "harsh parenting" -- such as yelling at, threatening, slapping or spanking their child.

There were, however, some nuances, researchers report in the Aug. 5 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The pattern was seen only in mothers with a particular gene variant related to the brain chemical dopamine. And those women reported using more harsh discipline only at the start of the recession, when local unemployment rates were most rapidly rising.

Experts said that suggests it's the onset of an economic downturn -- and the fear of job loss -- that may push some moms toward harsh discipline.

"We don't have direct evidence of this, but we think it's the fear, the anxiety over what's coming," said Irwin Garfinkel, one of the study authors and a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, in New York City.

"You see harsh parenting increase at the beginning of the recession, when unemployment rates were changing rapidly," Garfinkel said. "But then it starts going down, even as unemployment rates remain high."

What's more, the study found, the connection between the recession and harsh discipline seemed limited to mothers who carried a "sensitive" variant of a gene called DRD2.

"The numbers did not change for mothers with the 'insensitive' variant," Garfinkel said.

The DRD2 gene helps produce the brain chemical dopamine, which is involved in regulating mood and behavior. It's far from certain, but scientists think that under times of significant stress, people with that gene variant may be more prone to reacting aggressively.

A child-abuse expert who reviewed the study said the gene findings are interesting, but not likely to have any immediate practical use. The other findings, though, could have real-world implications.

"This confirms previous research showing an increase in physical abuse during times of crisis," said Jennifer Wolford, a doctor with the Child Advocacy Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

In one of those past studies, a team at the Pittsburgh center found an increase in child-abuse head injuries that coincided with the start of the recent recession.

The new findings, Wolford said, suggest that the sudden downward trend at the start of a recession -- and the widespread uncertainty it causes -- may be particularly important.

"Is it that time of uncertainty that's more difficult for people than what actually happens afterward?" Wolford said. It's not clear, but she said the findings highlight a need for social services for families and children -- right at a time when policymakers may consider funding cuts.

"That is not the time when we should be cutting back," Wolford said.

The findings are based on 4,898 children born in 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. Mothers were interviewed when their children were born and also at 1, 3, 5 and 9 years old. About 2,600 moms also gave saliva samples for gene testing. Three-quarters of the women were unmarried when they gave birth, and the study did not look at fathers' parenting habits.

Just over half of the mothers carried the sensitive variant of DRD2, and in general, they reported increases in harsh discipline at a time when local unemployment rates and consumer confidence measures were at their steepest rates of change.

On the other hand, Garfinkel pointed out, once economic conditions stabilized and started to show small improvements, mothers with the sensitive gene were actually using harsh punishment less often than mothers with the insensitive variant.

He said that's a prime example of the "orchid-dandelion" theory: People with the sensitive gene variant are like orchids -- doing well under good environment conditions, and struggling under tough ones. The other people are like dandelions, holding fairly steady no matter what the environment is doing.

One question, according to Garfinkel, is how temporary increases in harsh parenting may affect children in the long run. "We don't know yet if these short-term changes have long-term consequences," he said.

The study also focused on harsh discipline, which falls short of the types of abuse that would be reported to social services, Garfinkel said. But he agreed with Wolford that the findings underscore the need for social services during economic hard times -- and perhaps especially at the start of a recession.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has advice on child discipline.

SOURCES: Irwin Garfinkel, Ph.D., professor, contemporary urban problems, Columbia University School of Social Work, New York City; Jennifer Wolford, D.O., M.P.H., assistant professor, pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Aug. 5, 2013, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online

Reviewed Date: --

This content was reviewed by Mid-Atlantic Womens Care, PLC. Please visit their site to find an Mid-Atlantic Womens Care obstetrician.

Find a pediatrician
Helpful Information
Mid-Atlantic Womens's Care
Health Tips
Baby’s Emotional, Intellectual Development
Boost Your Teen Daughter’s Body Image
Cool Tools to Keep Your Kids From Smoking
Could Your Child Have a Drug Problem?
Do Parents Influence Their Kids’ Health Behaviors?
For Kids, Games Can Build Strong Minds
Growing Up Short or Heavy Can Be Difficult
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
Helping Children Conquer Fear
How Old Is 'Old Enough' for Contacts?
How to Prevent Childhood Obesity
How to Talk About Drugs With Your Kids
Is It Time for Toilet Training?
Is Your Child Too Sick for Day Care or School?
Keeping Your Cool When Parenting Teens
Kids' Health Concerns Ease with Age
Letting Kids Grow Up…At Their Own Pace
Making Rules for Children Reinforces Love
Making This School Year Your Child's Best Ever
New Parents...Sore Backs
Parents-to-Be Must Communicate
Paying for Attention: Abuse of Prescription ADHD Drugs Rising on College Campuses
Preparing Your Daughter for Changes
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Solving Battles at Mealtime
Sports and Music: Both Good for Kids
Talk With Your Kids About These Issues
Talking Sex with Your Teen
Teens and Talk: What's a Parent to Do?
TV vs. Activity: Key Choice for Kids
We Can Head Off Teen Tragedies
Weight Room No Longer Off-Limits to Kids
What Kids Drink Is Important, Too
When Children Say 'No' to New Foods
When to Call the Doctor for Childhood Illnesses
When Your Child Says, 'I'm Sick'
Your Child's Imaginary Friend…What It Means
Your Child's Social and Emotional Development
Child Development Quiz
Diseases & Conditions
AIDS/HIV in Children
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma and Children
Asthma in Children Index
Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboarding Safety--Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates
Bipolar Disorder in Children
Bone Marrow Transplantation in Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Breast Milk Collection and Storage
Breast Milk Expression
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Mother
Breastfeeding Overview
Breastfeeding Your Baby
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Diphtheria in Children
During an Asthma Attack
Ewing Sarcoma
Glossary - Medical Genetics
Hepatitis B (HBV) in Children
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Meningitis in Children
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Muscular Dystrophy
Myasthenia Gravis in Children
Normal Newborn Behaviors and Activities
Online Resources - Medical Genetics
Osteosarcoma in Children
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Poliomyelitis (Polio) in Children
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries Overview
Television and Children
The Growing Child: 1 to 3 Months
The Growing Child: 10 to 12 Months
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: 4 to 6 Months
The Growing Child: 7 to 9 Months
The Growing Child: Newborn
The Growing Child: Preschool (4 to 5 Years)
The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years)
The Heart
The Kidneys
Vision Overview
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.