A recent study seeking to shed light on parental influence on children’s health found that while mothers usually have a more positive influence over their children, their fathers may show their children what not to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The study utilized 45 married couples to assess through in-depth interviews how they, as adults, were affected by their parent’s behaviors. Researchers found that mothers positively influenced their children’s lives by being there for them when they needed help: whether they were sad or sick. Conversely, fathers became “cautionary tales” on health for some of the adults interviewed. The adults pointed out that they did not want to engage in the unhealthy behaviors they saw their fathers engage in, such as heavy drinking. They did not want to repeat the mistakes made by their fathers and led their lives according to those values.

Perceived Impact of Mothers and Fathers on Health

In general, many participants in the study indicated that they did not feel as if their parents or in-laws had any impact on their health. Individuals who did not perceive parental impact on health would set boundaries with parents and in-laws. They believed that their marital relationship was the only one that mattered in terms of maintaining health. However, more than one-third of participants did feel as if their parents or in-laws influenced their health.

For the most part, adult children felt as if their mothers were a positive influence on their health because they could count on them. Not surprisingly, most mothers never stop caring for their children and provide support even into adulthood. The same helpfulness also came from mothers-in-law. On the other hand, fathers and fathers-in-law’s past behaviors became deterrents for their adult children. Fathers that were seen as negative examples of health often engaged in addictive behaviors associated with alcohol and drugs. Therefore, their adult children decided to learn from their mistakes and not follow their fathers’ unhealthy life choices.

Need Help?

Addiction is a disease that can be inherited from family, and/or developed through environmental factors. Understanding negative behaviors and their impact on health offer protection against the development of drug or alcohol addiction. Parental influences affect children throughout their lives and well into adulthood. Recognizing and learning from the mistakes of a parent or loved one is a valuable tool we can use to better ourselves and our lives. However, everyone has a personal path to walk in life, and addiction does not discriminate. At Fort Behavioral Health, we understand that addiction and the road to recovery are unique for everyone. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 844.332.1807.


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