Azara Blog: Stressed parents allegedly have stressed children

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Date published: 2008/03/19

The BBC says:

Parents with stressful lives may be making their children as well as themselves vulnerable to illness, research suggests.

A University of Rochester study, reported by New Scientist, found sickness levels were higher in children of anxious or depressed parents.

It also found links between stress and immune system activity in the children.
The researchers conceded that allowing parents to measure the illness in their children could skew the results, as over-anxious parents were more likely to record higher levels.

However, they said that the findings still strongly suggested a connection between parental stress and children's health.

Oh boy, they let the parents "measure the illness in their children"? Well of course that could "skew the results". But even without that serious defect in the study, all they have shown is a correlation, not a causation. So the problem here is that even assuming that the correlation is valid, could it be that the causation is the other way around, i.e. having stressed children causes parents to be stressed. And even if the parents are the problem, is it caused by some inherent (e.g. genetic) source which the children have inherited no matter what, or is it something that would be sorted if somehow the parents could be made less stressed?

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