Want your kids to be happier kids? More important, want your children to grow up to be happier and more satisfied for the rest of their lives?
A study from University College London found that people who perceived their parents as less psychologically controlling and more caring as they were growing up were likely to be happier and more satisfied as adults.
On the flip side, the people whose parents applied greater psychological control as they were growing up exhibited significantly lower mental well-being throughout their adult lives; in fact, the effect was judged to be similar to the recent death of a close friend or relative.
According to Mai Stafford, the lead author of the study:
“We found that people whose parents showed warmth and responsiveness had higher life satisfaction and better mental wellbeing throughout early, middle and late adulthood. By contrast, psychological control was significantly associated with lower life satisfaction and mental wellbeing. Examples of psychological control include not allowing children to make their own decisions, invading their privacy and fostering dependence.”
Psychological control differs from behavioral control. Behavioral control includes things like setting curfews, assigning chores, and expecting homework to be completed.
Behavioral control was determined when respondents disagreed with statements like “Gave me as much freedom as I wanted” and “Let me go out as often as I wanted.” While that might sound psychologically controlling, it’s not. Those parents set limits on certain types of behaviors — but not on feelings.
Psychological control involves not letting kids make some of their own decisions, not allowing privacy, and encouraging feelings of dependence.
Psychological control was determined when respondents agreed with statements like “Tried to control everything I did” and “Tried to make me feel dependent on her/him.”
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