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Controlling parents mean less happy life

People who grew up with controlling parents continue to be affected into adulthood, researchers claim.

A new lifelong study carried out by academics at University College, London (UCL) found that people who perceived their parents as caring and less controlling enjoyed high levels of life satisfaction.

The UCL survey tracked the wellbeing of 5,362 people from their births in 1946. Although the number of respondents dropped over time, the researchers were able to gather data from 3,699 of them between the ages of 13 and 15. By the time the participants were between 60 and 64 years-old, there were 2,000 still submitting full data.

Dr Mai Stafford of the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing was the study’s lead author. She said the results of the survey indicated that “people whose parents showed warmth and responsiveness had higher life satisfaction and better mental wellbeing throughout early, middle and late adulthood”.

However, those whose parents exhibited “psychological control” over them experienced “lower life satisfaction and mental wellbeing”, she explained. Not allowing children to make their own decisions, invading their privacy and “fostering dependence” were all cited as examples of such control.

While UCL researchers found that psychological control had long-lasting effects on children as they grow up, the same was not true of “behavioural control”. This consisted of broader restrictions such as not letting a child go out whenever they wanted to. The results showed no significant impact of such restrictions on someone’s overall life satisfaction as an adult.

The study was published in the academic Journal of Positive Psychology. It shows that parents are “vitally important to the mental wellbeing of future generations”, Dr Stafford claimed. She called for policies to be introduced which would promote “a healthy work-life balance”. This would give parents time to “nurture relationships with their children”.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. The Devil's Advocate says:

    Surprise surprise. Yes behavioural control is part of being a responsible parent; psychological control is domestic abuse and needs to be addressed; but it is the British disorder – what goes on behind closed front doors which allows the latter to penetrate all levels of society and to effect the terrorism against minors which Courts fail to address.

  2. Dr Grumpy says:

    So less than 50% of the original cohort remain in the study? Sorry this is not statistically valid!

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