Coming of age in a privileged household can help children physically for years and years to come, but according to a Baylor University study, a close relationship between parents and children, as well as providing healthy lifestyles, can have even greater long-term health benefits.
According to researcher Matthew A. Andersson, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, earlier research has linked high socioeconomic status with better childhood nutrition, sleeping habits, neighborhood quality, exercise, and development of social skills.
However, Andersson notes that if parent-child relationships are strained or abusive, mealtimes may be less organized, resulting in the children being more prone to eating unhealthy foods that are higher in sugar or fat. Sleep and exercise routines may also suffer, which can keep children from developing healthy lifestyles as well as the social and emotional skills which will become useful for healthy aging.
For this study, Andersson analyzed statistics taken from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), surveying 2,746 respondents between the ages of 25 and 75 in 1995 on their childhood treatment by parents. He did a follow-up survey 10 years later with 1,692 participants.
According to Andersson, good parent-child bonds in homes with lower socioeconomic status, while they promote health, do not seem to decrease the negative impact of the disadvantaged childhood as the children age. Previous research has shown that parents who are uneducated or grew up with fewer financial advantages, are more prone to force or threaten obedience rather than speak to their children in a healthy manner.
The study found that without close parent-child relationships, a higher socioeconomic status may not be enough of an advantage during childhood to protect against all major chronic diseases as children reach midlife.