Kids feel their parents emotions so much more than we often realize. When parents are sad or angry, it sets the stage for kids to become sad or angry too. When we are relaxed and happy, it helps kids feel calm and happy as well. So it's no wonder that a new study has found that the children of mothers who suffer from PTSD are more likely to experience trauma than their peers.
PTSD - or post traumatic stress disorder - is the term used to describe a psychiatric disorder that occurs as the result of a traumatic experience or event. Child abuse, combat experience, a car accident or even a natural disaster could all trigger the onset of PTSD. The condition is then characterized by depression, nightmares, "flashbacks" of the incident, loss of interest in activities, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. All symptoms that interfere immensely with the daily life of a parent.
But try as you might to suppress these symptoms, it's likely that your kids are picking up on them. And for a variety of reasons, it may make them more susceptible to PTSD too. In a small study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, researchers found that inner-city kids whose mothers had PTSD experienced more traumatic events - such as neighborhood shootings, domestic violence, dog bites or car accidents - before age five than kids whose mothers were depressed or had no mental health issues.
The study's results aren't terribly surprising. It's a sad but true fact that mothers who suffer from PTSD and depression are more likely to physically abuse their own children. They are also more likely to live in areas where trauma is a daily fact of life. But it is interesting as it points out the vicious cycle that could more easily be halted if priorities were given to maternal health.
"The main take-home message is that when parents are suffering, their children suffer, too," said Dr. Howard Dubowitz, professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
In other words, we need to take care of the moms, so that those moms can better care for their kids.
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