A new study delves deep into proving that having a close relationship with your child can lead them to make positive life choices.
To conduct the study, which was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers had more than 140 adolescents fill out surveys. The adolescents completed one survey in the eighth grade and another during their junior or senior year of high school. The surveys asked questions about exposure to their parents’ conflict with each other, their relationship with their mom and any involvement in dating violence. Participants were already part of an ongoing study on the development of children with alcoholic parents. Therefore, 50 percent had at least one parent struggling with alcoholism—usually the dad. All participants’ parents were wed or living together when they were born.
Those who reported above-average levels of positive parenting behaviors from their mom while in the eighth grade were at a lower risk of experiencing dating violence in their later teens—even if their moms were in a conflict-filled marriage.
The results are noteworthy because previous research found that adolescents who witnessed marital conflict at a young age were more likely to enter into abusive relationships, playing into the thinking that kids subconsciously mimic the type of relationship their parents had when they grow up. The study, however, shows that a mom’s love and strong relationship with her child could actually help prevent this from happening by increasing the teen’s feelings of self-worth, according to Jennifer Livingston, Ph.D., lead investigator and associate professor in the UB School of Nursing. On the other hand, the study found that moms with low levels of warmth, responsiveness and support didn’t mitigate the negative effects of marital conflict on her kids.
“Children form internal working models about themselves and others based on the quality of their relationship with their parents,” Dr. Livingston said in a press release. “If the primary caretaker is abusive or inconsistent, children learn to view themselves as unlovable and others as hostile and untrustworthy. But positive parenting behaviors characterized by acceptance and warmth help children form positive internal working models of themselves as lovable and worthy of respect.”
In other words, moms, even if your marriage isn’t perfect, you can still show your kids that love and acceptance go a long way.