Authoritarian Parenting Styles Increase Risk of Depression Amongst Latino Children

July 6, 2015 by No Comments

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There’s no short supply of things that can cause depression in adolescents: academic stress, heartbreak, divorcing parents, family financial struggles, low self-esteem. The list goes on. Even a home’s decor can make a person gloomy, as 14% of people recently reported in a survey.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, authoritarian parenting styles common amongst Hispanic cultures can produce depression, anxiety, and somatization in children.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work looked at how commonly children showed physical signs of illness, despite having no physical for reason for being sick. This phenomenon of physical manifestations of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, is known as somatization.

Researchers obtained data from 661 Mexican and Dominican immigrant mothers, and children, who were all between the ages of four and six, and tested to see whether they were at risk for anxiety, depression, and other factors.

The study found that nearly half of the children were at risk for anxiety, with 10% being at risk for depression and somatization. As children got older, the rates increased. Latino children also seemed to display these issues at higher levels than the general population.

“Our study suggests that the disproportionate risk for anxiety, depression and suicide attempts observed among Latino, compared to non-Latino, youths begins way before adolescence,” said lead researcher Esther Calzada. “By understanding how parenting can promote healthy emotional development starting early in a child’s development, we hope to develop programs to support Latino families in preventing these serious negative mental health outcomes.”

Researchers believe that the rates of anxiety and somatization may be caused by authoritarian parenting styles inherent in Hispanic cultures. “Respeto” plays an important part in Latino childrearing culture, and demands that children comply and accept authority figures, who set clear rules, high standards, strict punishments, and communicate little.

As Calzada explained, “Parents’ adherence to respeto may impact children not only by fostering authoritarian parenting styles but also directly, by making young children more nervous or distressed during interactions with adults who hold clear authority, such as teachers.”

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