Monday, November 04, 2013

Child-centred mothers stressed out? No, they're the happiest and least likely to suffer mental health problems

Survey data but no obvious distortions

Putting your child first can make you happier, a study has found.

It challenges the myth that parents who are highly involved in their children’s lives must be sacrificing their own well-being, researchers said.

The team of psychologists said labels such as ‘helicopter parents’, ‘tiger mums’ or ‘little emperors’ undermine parents who place their children at the centre of family life, and assume that parents’ needs come last.

In reality, by focusing on maximising their children’s happiness, they enjoy life and their role as parents more, they claimed.

Study leader Claire Ashton-James, from VU University in Amsterdam, said there is little research to support the assumption that investing time in your children comes at some personal cost.

Her findings, however, seemed to back up the notion that investing financial and emotional resources in others leads to greater happiness than investing in yourself. Dr Ashton-James said: ‘In short, when it comes to parental well-being, you reap what you sow.’

Together with psychologist colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Dr Ashton-James conducted two studies with 322 parents who had at least one child aged 18 or younger living at home.

In the first study parents were asked to complete a child-centrism scale to gauge their parenting style. This included the degree to which they agreed with statements such as, ‘The happiness of my children is more important to me than my own happiness’.

They were also given a survey to measure the happiness and purpose they experienced from having children by responding to statements such as, ‘My children make my life meaningful’.

The researchers found that child-centric parents were significantly more likely to report higher levels of happiness and a greater sense of purpose derived from having children.

Parents taking part in the second study were asked to retell their previous day’s activities and report how they felt during each activity.

The results found more involved parents had stronger positive feelings, weaker negative feelings, and felt their lives had more meaning during childcare.

In addition, the well-being of child-centric parents was not affected negatively throughout the rest of the day, for example when they were doing housework or running errands.

This indicated their approach to parenting does not hurt their happiness when they are not taking care of their children, perhaps when they might start to feel resentful about how little time they spend on themselves. It also proved that they weren’t exaggerating how much enjoyment they got from parenting to compensate for the sacrifices they made, the researchers said.

The report, published in Social Psychological and  Personality Science, concluded: ‘We found a significant positive relationship between child-centrism and the subjective happiness and meaning of life that  participants reported deriving from parenting,’

Dr Ashton-James added: ‘The consequences of child-focused forms of parenting for the wellbeing of parents have been a source of heated debate in the popular media, largely in the absence of research.

‘These findings suggest that the more care and attention people give to others, the more happiness and meaning they experience.

‘From this perspective, the more invested parents are in their children’s well-being – that is, the more “child-centric” parents are – the more happiness and meaning they will derive from parenting.


Is this the best diet news ever? Eating plenty of chocolate can keep you SLIM

Self-report data  -- intrinsically poor

It seems like news that really is too good to be true.  Rather than being a major factor in piling on the pounds, eating large amounts of chocolate is one of the best ways to lose weight, a study has found.

Spanish researchers examined the diets and healthy activities of 1,500 teenagers aged between 12 and 17 in nine European countries, including Spain and the UK.

They found that people who admitted eating large amounts of chocolate had, on average, far lower levels of fat over their bodies.

In particular, they were trimmer around the stomach area - regardless of whether they had an active lifestyle or were on a diet.

Chocolate was also found to have a positive effect on circulation, blood pressure and heart health.

The study, from the University of Granada, backs up earlier findings from the University of California that suggested regular chocolate eaters have less body fat.

This may be because while chocolate contains more calories than many other foods, it appears to make the metabolism work harder, offsetting the fat that otherwise might hang around.

There's also the issue of denial. A recent poll found that 86 per cent of slimmers who carried on enjoying their favourite treats successfully lost weight.

Janet Aylott, a nutrition scientist for Nutracheck, which commissioned the survey, said: ‘Extensive research has proven that diets centred around food elimination are much more likely to fail.  ‘The key is to take a more relaxed approach and to have a little of what you like.’

Previous research has shown that dieters who completely eliminate treats such as chocolate, wine and biscuits  are often more likely to put on weight as they ‘compensate’ by eating more of  other foods.

One study even showed that as many as 65 per cent of those who give up all treats actually end up ballooning in weight.

Another recent study from the University of Cambridge found people who enjoyed chocolate every day were 29 per cent less likely to have a stroke and 37 per cent less likely to suffer with heart disease than those who avoided it most of the time.

It is the flavonoids in cocoa beans - a key ingredient in chocolate - that seem responsible for the health benefits of chocolate. These flavonoids (also found in tea and red wine) act as antioxidants, which help mop up an excess of cell-damaging free radicals.

As a rule, the higher the cocoa content, the more flavonoids and the greater the health benefits - dark chocolate with 40 per cent cocoa solids contains five times more flavonoids than white chocolate and twice as many as milk chocolate.


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