How Busy Mothers Can Pass on Stress to Their Children

Daily Mail (London), November 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

How Busy Mothers Can Pass on Stress to Their Children


Byline: JAMES MILLS

FOR many mothers, juggling the daily demands of a career with caring for children can be a stressful experience.

Now researchers have proved that this stress not only affects women but can be passed on to their offspring.

The problem can be particularly severe for youngsters whose mothers are not satisfied in their jobs.

The researchers suggested that, for such women, placing their children in a nursery would help to significantly reduce the stress the youngsters experienced.

The study also suggested that greater support was needed for working mothers, both in improving job satisfaction and increasing the availability of affordable childcare.

For the project, researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 56 children aged three and four.

Their mothers were then asked about their work.

The team, from the Universities of Bristol, Bath and Kent, found that stress levels in children appeared to be influenced by their mothers' experiences in the workplace.

Women who said their jobs were unrewarding, stressful or left them feeling emotionally exhausted were more likely to have children with high stress levels than those who were fulfilled by their jobs.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone which regulates blood pressure and controls the functioning of the heart and immune system.

It also controls the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Larger quantities of the hormone are secreted in times of physical or psychological stress.

Without this response, the body would not be able to function. But when levels remain high for a long period of time it can lead to ill health.

For the study, published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology, researchers took saliva samples from the children in the morning and evening.

Over a period of six months their mothers were questioned about their workplace conditions and their home life.

Among children whose mothers reported low job satisfaction, levels of cortisol in the evening were more than double the levels in the morning. …

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