Parenting and children's cardiovascular functioning

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Abstract

Objectives

To test the hypothesis that more supportive/less negative parenting is associated with lower resting blood pressure and heart rates in children and to determine whether parent and/or child gender and developmental stage moderate the relations in question.

Design

Longitudinal data on 835 children/families who participated in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were analysed. Children (one per family) were followed from age 1 month to 11 years.

Methods

Data were collected from children and their families via interviews, observations of parent–child interaction and physical health assessments.

Results

Correlations show that more supportive and less negative parenting prior to kindergarten entry (∼5 years) are associated with lower heart rates and blood pressure in children of primary school grades 4–6 (∼9 to 11 years), especially in the case of fathering, sons and parenting during the pre-school years.

Conclusions

Such findings raise the prospect that interventions to enhance parenting, especially the early fathering of sons, may have beneficial effects on children's cardiovascular functioning. The inability to discount genetic mediation of parenting effects makes it clear that behaviour-genetic and/or experimental research is needed to document cause and effect relations.

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