A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Critical Parents Shut Down Kids’ Emotions

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Do you point out everything your child does wrong? While most parents try to help their kids by critiquing mistakes, new research shows that too much criticism may affect your child’s emotional development.

“Don’t do that.” “You didn’t even try.” “You’re not a good listener!” Every parent has used phrases like these at one time or another, but a new study shows that overly critical moms and dads may be causing harm. Researchers from Binghamton University examined 87 children ages 7 to 11. They measured brain activity while the kids looked at pictures of faces showing different emotions. Results showed that the children whose parents’ initial statement about them was negative—or those with negative parental relationships—were less responsive to emotional facial expressions.

The authors of the study originally thought that the children who were exposed to higher levels of parental criticism would pay more attention to angry expressions than their peers. But it turned out they were less successful at identifying any type of emotion.

The scientists say these findings suggest that kids with critical parents might be ignoring and avoiding emotions. Highly critical parents also increase a child’s risk for depression and anxiety. So you might want to look for more opportunities to point out what your child is doing right. It could help their emotional health.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Julie Marks, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Full research article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15374416.2018.1453365

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