THE INC. LIFE

5 Recent Psychological Studies Every Parent Should Know About

Science can help you be a better, happier parent.

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BY Jessica Stillman - 13 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

People have been raising kids since the dawn of, well, people, but that doesn't mean we've already learned everything there is to know about how to bring up happy, successful kids.

While there are some classic principles of parenting that never change--more love is always better, default to honesty, avoid general labels that will almost surely outlast their usefulness--science is continually uncovering fresh insights on raising kids. Keeping up with this research will arm you with the best information to evaluate the latest parenting trends and decide what's best for your family.

Helpfully, PsyBlog recently rounded up a ton of interesting recent findings. Here are some of the most useful to get you started:

1. Helicopter parenting depresses kids

Wildly overprotective parents catch a lot of flak for failing to prepare their offspring for a rough and tumble world, but apparently there's another reason to avoid preventing your kids' every possible misstep--it will also probably make them miserable.

A recent study "found links between 'helicopter parenting' and higher levels of depression amongst the students," reports PsyBlog. Unsurprisingly, the most smothered kids also showed less autonomy and competence too.

2. Screaming at your kids makes them behave worse

I have a (strong willed) 2-year-old, so I get it--sometimes basically everyone screams at their kid, but according to the latest research, you probably shouldn't make a habit of it. Not only is it unpleasant for everyone, it's also been shown to actually make your child's behavior worse.

"A study of 967 U.S. families found that harsh verbal discipline at 13-years-old predicted worse behavior in the next year (Wang et al., 2013). And it didn't help if parents had a strong bond with their children," PsyBlog notes.

3. Regular bedtimes will make your kid smarter

Underslept kids are cranky kids, but according to science they're less smart kids too. "Researchers followed 11,000 children from when they were 3 years old to the age of 7 to measure the effects of bedtimes on cognitive function, (Kelly et al., 2013). The researchers found that: '...irregular bedtimes at 3 years of age were associated with lower scores in reading, math, and spatial awareness in both boys and girls,'" says PsyBlog.

Given how foggy adults feel when they sleep poorly, this finding probably isn't all that surprising. But maybe it's the kick in the pants you need to wrestle your unwilling 3-year-old into bed at a reasonable hour each night.

4. Regular exercise will help your kids do better in school

A ton of science attests to the fact that regular exercise makes the human brain work better, so maybe this finding is no surprise either, but in today's sedentary world, it's a conclusion that bear repeating.

"A new study of 11-year-olds has found that moderate to vigorous exercise was associated with increased academic performance in English, Maths, and Science (Booth et al., 2013). These gains from exercise were also seen in exams taken at 16-years-old," says PsyBlog.

5. Siblings really aren't all that alike

If you've ever wondered how you could possibly be related to your wildly different sibling (or how your two kids could possibly be so different), one particular new study highlighted by PsyBlog is for you. It found that, "siblings have no more in common in their personalities than two completely unrelated strangers."

How is that possible, given their shared DNA? Apparently, different relationships between parents and siblings and different experiences away from home add up to highly divergent personalities, the researchers explain.