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More PsychNotes: Parenting

May 26, 2015       

A Good Night's Sleep Doesn't Overcome the Stress of Controlling Parents
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

Studying how the quality of sleep affects the intellectual performance o f teenagers when stressed by harsh and/or controlling parents, researchers El-Sheikh and colleagues (2014) found that quality sleep did not overcome the stress of negative parenting styles. Not surprisingly, those adolescents who performed best were those with more positive parenting and better quality sleep.

When confronted with general daily stress, quality sleep can be an important coping tool that reduces the negative consequences of stress. Teenagers who have a poor quality sleep do not function as well intellectually even with positive parenting. However, when teenagers are confronted with the daily and extreme conditions of negative parenting, even a good night's sleep does not help their intellectual functioning.

Specifically, controlling parents who most likely want to improve successful outcomes in their children are achieving the opposite instead. The control reduces intellectual performance and increases the likelihood of academic failure.

Of course, this does not mean to be completely permissive and allow teenagers full reign. Generally, setting limits and consequences is a necessary and effective means of parenting. However, it should not be done in an aggressive or overly controlling manner. In other words, as children mature it is psychologically healthy for them to begin to make more decisions that directly affect their lives. Yet, the parents need to provide guidance.

El-Sheikh, M., Tu, K.M., Erath, S.A. and Buckhalt, J.A. (2014). Family Stress and Adolescents’ Cognitive Functioning: Sleep as a Protective Factor, 28, 887–896. DOI: 10.1037/fam0000031

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