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Mothers who look at parenting as if it’s an extreme sport may be doing more harm than good; both to their kids and themselves. At least that’s the theory behind a new study from the University of Mary Washington. The research shows that a new breed of parenting is taking place in the United States, or what researchers are calling, “intensive parenting.” Intensive parenting is when mothers idealize motherhood and, “Believe that women are better parents than men, that mothering should be child-centred, and that children should be considered sacred and are fulfilling to parents.” When mothers are fully invested in intensive parenting, the researchers report that they may experience detrimental mental health problems such as increased stress levels, depression and guilt.
Extreme Mothering Results in Stress for Everyone
During the study, which was admittedly small, the researchers looked at 181 mothers of children under 5 years old. Using a simple questionnaire, the authors measured how mothers endorse intensive parenting and how those beliefs affect them. Most of the women surveyed who were invested in intensive parenting were still satisfied with their lives, but all had moderate levels of stress and depression. Around 23% of intense mothers had symptoms of depression and other negative mental health outcomes were present as well. Mothers who felt that women should be the most essential parent (say more essential than fathers) were less satisfied with their lives and those who believed that parenting is challenging were more stressed and depressed. Years of past scientific research further shows that when mothers are stressed, depressed or otherwise unhappy, it can affect a child’s mental health negatively, which led the authors of this particular study to conclude that not only is intensive parenting bad for mothers, but it’s likely bad for kids too.
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