Tag Archives: mother

Couple.

Most people tend to mirror their mother’s number of romantic partners

When it comes to romance, it seems we all agree — mother knows best.

Couple.

Image via Pixabay.

A national study found that we often follow our mothers’ relationship patterns. People whose mother had a greater number of partners (be them in a marriage or cohabiting relationship) were more likely to have more partners than their peers. The authors say it’s likely that the personality traits and social skill set mothers pass on to children make them more or less likely to form stable relationships.

Parental guidance

“Our results suggest that mothers may have certain characteristics that make them more or less desirable on the marriage market and better or worse at relationships,” said Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study and associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Children inherit and learn those skills and behaviors and may take them into their own relationships.”

Dush says that the study expands on previous findings regarding the link between family dynamics and relationship patterns. For example, a lot of prior research found that children from divorced couples are more likely to divorce themselves — but the current study broadens the picture. “It’s not just divorce now,” Dush explains.

“Many children are seeing their parents divorce, start new cohabiting relationships, and having those end as well,” she said. “All of these relationships can influence children’s outcomes, as we see in this study.”

The study drew on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child and Young Adult (NLSY79 CYA), run by the Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research. The (7,152) people in the NSL79 CYA survey were the biological children of women in the NLSY79, allowing researchers to analyze long-term relationship patterns and the number of partners over both generations — the surveys included information on marriage, divorce, cohabiting relationships, and their break-ups. Both studies tracked each participant for at least 24 years.

The team reports that a mother’s number of marriages and cohabiting partners both had similar effects on how many partners their children had. One key difference between the two was that older siblings, who were exposed to their mother’s cohabiting relationships for longer, went on to have more partners than younger siblings — who were less exposed to the relationships, the team explains.

But why?

Mother with daughter.

Image via Pixabay.

“You may see cohabitation as an attractive, lower-commitment type of relationship if you’ve seen your mother in such a relationship for a longer time,” Kamp Dush said. “That may lead to more partners since cohabitating relationships are more likely to break-up.”

The paper also treats three theories about why children tend to follow their mothers’ relationship patterns:

When parents break up, the family or household loses one source of income. Economic hardship associated with divorce can lead to poorer child outcomes and a more difficult transition to adulthood. These kids are then more likely to have more unstable relationships as adults. However; while the team did find a relationship between economic instability and one’s number of partners, controlling for economic background didn’t have any significant effect on the mother-child link in the number of partners. This suggests that while money mattered, it wasn’t the main reason why so many people follow the same relationship patterns as their mothers.

The second theory proposes that people simply learn by example. Actually witnessing your mother going through one or more divorces or break-ups leads you to have more partners yourself. Should this be true, older half-siblings who saw their mother going through multiple relationships should be more at risk of engaging with multiple partners — but they’re not, the researchers say. The team didn’t find a statistically greater number of partners for these kids compared to younger siblings who did not experience instability.

“What our results suggest is that mothers may pass on their marriageable characteristics and relationship skills to their children — for better or worse,” Kamp Dush said. “It could be that mothers who have more partners don’t have great relationship skills, or don’t deal with conflict well, or have mental health problems, each of which can undermine relationships and lead to instability.”

“Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable.”

The paper “The intergenerational transmission of partnering” has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

mothers

Mother who birth more children age slower, not faster

The prevailing assumption is that mothers who birth more children live short lives due to accelerated biological aging. Researchers turn this historical thinking upside down after they found having more offspring actually prolongs the life of mothers and slows down cellular degradation.

mothers

Image: Pixabay

A team at Simon Fraser University, Canada surveyed mothers from  two neighbouring indigenous rural Guatemalan communities. The researchers measured the telomere lengths pf the participants at two time points 13 years apart, through salivary specimens and buccal swabs.

Telomeres are regions of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromatid, which protect the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Think of shoelace caps. Telomeres are also a biomarker of aging, with telomeres shortening with each cellular division or, in other words, as you advance in age. As a cell’s telomeres shorten, it loses its ability to function normally. Basically, shorter telomeres make you more susceptible to a number of diseases, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease – especially in older people.

Credit: PLoS One

Credit: PLoS One

Energy invested in reproduction is not available for tissue maintenance, thus having more offspring is expected to lead to accelerated senescence. Studies made on  non-human specie seem to confirm this thinking, but the Simon Fraser investigation actually revealed the reverse may be true.

According to study lead, professor Pablo Nepomnaschy, women who gave birth to more surviving children exhibited longer telomeres. Essentially, the pace of telomere shortening was slowed down. “Estrogen functions as a potent antioxidant that protects cells against telomere shortening,” Nepomnaschy said, offering a likely explanation. The social environment might also play a role.

“The women we followed over the course of the study were from natural fertility populations where mothers who bear numerous children receive more social support from their relatives and friends,” explains Nepomnaschy. “Greater support leads to an increase in the amount of metabolic energy that can be allocated to tissue maintenance, thereby slowing down the process of aging.”

Findings were published in PLoS One.

Close relationships make handling stress easier

New research has found evidence of emotional burden sharing (also known as load sharing) between partners in a close relationship. The study, co-authored by Queen’s University PhD candidate Jessica Lougheed, found that a strong personal relationship can help ease stress when placed in difficult situations.

The study, “Sharing the burden: the interpersonal regulation of emotional arousal in mother-daughter dyads,” was published in the journal Emotion.

Image via wellhappypeaceful

The social baseline theory

“We wanted to test a new evolutionary theory in psychology called Social Baseline Theory which suggests that humans adapted to be close to other humans,” says Ms. Lougheed. “The idea is that individuals function at a relative deficit when they are farther away from people they trust.”

The study measured under how much stress 66 adolescent girls were during an impromptu speech task. Before the task, they and their mothers were asked to rate the quality of their relationships. While they were delivering the speech, their levels of stress were tracked using galvanic skin response — by measuring the amount of skin perspiration. Participants’ mothers were also asked to either hold or not hold their daughters’ hand during this time, so the scientists could account for the effect physical, rather than the emotional, closeness had on the girls.

Hugs are golden, closeness is better

The girls’ performance spoke volumes: researchers found that physical closeness enabled the participants to manage stress much more efficiently, regardless of how close the mother-daughter relationship was reported to be. However, when physical contact was removed from the equation, only the participants who reported higher relationship quality showed signs of load sharing.

“Our results suggest that we are better equipped to overcome challenging situations when we are closer — either physically or in terms of how we feel in our relationships — to people we trust,” says Ms. Lougheed.

Participants who had reported the lowest level of mother-daughter relationship closeness and lacked physical contact during the task were the least efficient in managing emotional stress.

“We were somewhat surprised to find that mothers’ stress did not vary by physical closeness — after all, it can be stressful for parents to watch their children perform, but being able to offer physical comfort might have lessened the mothers’ stress,” says Ms. Lougheed.

“Thus, emotional load sharing in this context was not a function of the mothers’ stress level, and we expect that it occurred instead through the daughters’ perceptions of how stressful it was to give a speech. That is, higher physical and/or relationship closeness helped the daughters feel like they could overcome the challenging situation.”

The findings suggest that some of the difficulties associated with relatively low relationship quality can be overcome with physical contact, and that a high-quality relationship has the same effect on managing emotions as being physically comforted by a loved one.

Good relationships have the same effect on your emotional stability as a hug.
Image via erinhunter.katecary.co.uk

Lougheed does point out that the general level of relationship quality reported in the study was relatively high, and that physical contact may have profoundly different functions in distressed families.

She also cautions against generalizing these results to other partnerships — such as a relationship between romantic partners, platonic friends and other family members — and suggest that more research be done to determine the effect of socioeconomic status and gender, amongst other factors.

Breastfeeding improves mothers’ mental health

A new study of over 10,000 women has shown that women who breastfeed after giving birth have significantly lower chances of post-natal depression than their counterparts who didn’t.

There are still many things we don’t yet understand about breastfeeding, as this study highlights – mothers who planned to breastfeed and were actually able to do it were around 50% less likely to become depressed than mothers who had not planned to and did not. The relationship between breastfeeding and post-natal depression was most pronounced when babies were 8 weeks old and started to lose its weight quickly after that.

The research analyzed 13,998 births in the Bristol area in the early 1990s. Maternal depression was measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale when babies were 8 weeks, and 8, 21 and 33 months old. Doctors also took into consideration any preexisting conditions to rule out any potential external influence. It also controlled for socioeconomic factors such as income and relationship status, and for other potential confounders such as how babies were delivered, and whether they were premature. It’s one of the biggest studies of the kind, and also one of the few to control for external stimuli.

“Breastfeeding has well-established benefits to babies, in terms of their physical health and cognitive development; our study shows that it also benefits the mental health of mothers,” says Dr Maria Iacovou, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Sociology and a Bye Fellow at Fitzwilliam College. “In fact, the effects on mothers’ mental health that we report in this study are also likely to have an impact on babies, since maternal depression has previously been shown to have negative effects on many aspects of children’s development.”

Doctor Iacovou believes that mothers should not only be encouraged to breastfeed when their health allows it, but governments should also provide a level of support that will help mothers who want to breastfeed succeed.

“Lots of mothers and babies take to breastfeeding pretty easily. But for many others, it doesn’t come naturally at all; for these mothers, having someone with the training, the skills, and perhaps most importantly the time to help them get it right, can make all the difference,” she adds. “However good the level of support that’s provided, there will be some mothers who wanted to breastfeed and who don’t manage to. It’s clear that these mothers need a great deal of understanding and support; there is currently hardly any skilled specialist help for these mothers, and this is something else that health providers should be thinking about.”

Journal Reference (open access): Cristina Borra, Maria Iacovou, Almudena Sevilla. New Evidence on Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: The Importance of Understanding Women’s Intentions.