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Overprotective Parents May Create Mental Health Issues and Inhibit Brain Growth


Though parents may be trying to protect their children, a new study that has been done in Gunma University, Japan, shows that overprotective parents may actually cause harm.

The study suggests that Children who have parents that are overprotective or neglectful more susceptible to psychiatric disorders. This in turn is associated with defects in part of the prefrontal cortex.

Lead researcher Kosuke Narita, scanned the brains of 50 people in their 20s and asked them to fill out a survey about their relationship with their parents during their first 16 years.

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Narita and the team of researchers discovered that those with overprotective parents had less grey matter in a particular area of the prefrontal cortex than those who had had healthy relationships. Neglect from fathers, though not mothers, also correlated with less grey matter. This part of the prefrontal cortex develops during childhood, and abnormalities there are common in people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Narita and his team propose that the excessive release of the stress hormone cortisol – due either to neglect, or to too much attention – and reduced production of dopamine as a result of poor parenting leads to stunted grey matter growth.

Anthony Harris, director of the Clinical Disorders Unit at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia, says the study is important for highlighting to the wider community that parenting styles can have long-term effects on children.

Stephen Wood, who studies adolescent development at the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre in Australia, believes the brain abnormalities cannot always be blamed on children's relationship with their parents. He points out that the subjects studied may have been born with the abnormalities and as a result didn't bond well with their parents, rather than vice versa.

More research will have to be done before researches can conclude that overprotective parents inhibit brain growth that effects mental illness but this is clearly a step in the right direction.



This is a really interesting study. I'd like to know more. I underprotected my kids, but I know someone who overprotected big time, and the results were a bit sad.