`Moms who revolve around baby suffer mental health issues`

Updated: Jul 06, 2012, 15:16 PM IST

Washington: Mothers who think they are the most important persons in their baby`s life and always put the child`s needs first are more likely to be stressed and less happy with their lives than their laid-back counterparts, a new study has claimed.

Intensive parenting has three main philosophies: That moms are the best people to care for their children; mothering should centre around the child`s needs, and children should be considered delightful and wholly fulfilling for parents.

"There`s something very appealing about these intensive parenting ideologies," said study researcher Miriam Liss, a psychologist at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.

"[These attitudes] seem like they are how we should be feeling toward our children. But they may be more problematic than we think," she told LiveScience.

Plenty of studies have found that many parents hold these attitudes, but there was a lack of hard data on the mental health effects. Thus, Loss and her colleagues recruited 181 mothers of kids under age 5 and asked to complete a series of online questionnaires about their parenting attitudes, family support, life satisfaction and mental health.

They asked the moms how strongly they agreed with the beliefs of intensive parents: That moms are primary, that kids are entirely fulfilling, that kids need lots of stimulation, that parenting is very challenging and that parents` lives should revolve around their children.

The results, published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, revealed three of the five pinnacles of intensive parenting are linked with nasty mental health effects.

Though relatively few women held the belief that mothers are more important than anyone else in a child`s life, even fathers, those who did hold the attitude were less satisfied with life, more stressed and felt less family support than other moms in the study.

The belief that parenting is a great challenge was also linked less life satisfaction, as well as more depression and stress.

"That is a strongly held belief," Liss said. "Parenting being really, really hard is a commonly held belief that seems to be really bad for women."

Women who believed parenting should be child-centric also had reduced life satisfaction, the researchers found. The link disappeared when the researchers controlled for perceptions of family support, however.

The findings could hint at why research has come up with contradictory results about whether parenthood makes people happier or not. Some studies have found that parenting raises stress and decreases well-being, while others have found no effect or a positive influence on happiness.

"May be it`s not having a child versus not having a child," Liss said. "Maybe there are certain ways of parenting, like this intensive style of parenting, that is more negative for parents` mental health."

The researchers can`t say for sure whether the parenting causes the mental health problems, though many of the links make little sense the other way around, Liss noted.

"We can say that anything that causes more maternal depression is not good for kids," she added.