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31 October 2022

How your parents’ mental health can shape your own wellbeing

Did you know that the mental health impacts of trauma and emotional distress may, in some cases, extend from parents to their children?

As we mark the last day of Mental Health Month, some fascinating research from Deakin’s Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development shows that your parents’ mental health likely shaped your early social and emotional development. Any traumatic or distressing experiences your parents had even decades before your birth may still affect you.

‘This may be because trauma and distress could have lasting biological and social impacts, influencing future reproductive processes and parenting,’ says lead study author Dr Liz Spry.

Your tendency to experience distress is influenced by complex factors including genetics and how you were raised. Many social and financial conditions are also slow to shift. If your parents have experienced racial discrimination or poverty, you may be more likely to experience these too while growing up.

Extreme stress due to traumatic events including genocide, combat and forced displacement can also shape future generations.

Yet a positive history of wellbeing can also cross generations. The children of parents with a history of wellbeing during adolescence and young adulthood showed more positive behaviours and were also less fearful or restless


What this means for you

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