By Kelli Catana

Every parent wants their children to grow up to be happy and well adjusted adults, and most can agree that a big part of making sure that happens is ensuring your child is raised in a loving, caring environment. There has been a lot of talk about different parenting techniques over the years — ranging from helicopter parents to tiger moms to free range parents, but now science is proving that raising your kids one certain way will make them happier adults.

In a study from the University College London, researchers found that children who were raised by parents who were less “psychologically controlling” and more caring during their youth grew up to be happier adults more satisfied with their lives, reports. The study finds that supportive, affectionate parents who allow their children the ability to make their own decisions can affect children as they grow in to adults and even into their seventies.

Conversely, those who felt they had parents who exhibited greater psychological control had lower mental health as adults.

“We found that people whose parents showed warmth and responsiveness had higher life satisfaction and better mental wellbeing throughout early, middle and late adulthood,” Mai Stafford, one of the authors of the study, said. “By contrast, psychological control was significantly associated with lower life satisfaction and mental wellbeing. Examples of psychological control include not allowing children to make their own decisions, invading their privacy and fostering dependence.”

This doesn’t mean you have to let your kids have the run of the house to ensure they grow into happy, well adjusted adults. The study states that children whose parents who exhibit behavioral control, such as ensuring chores are completed and homework is done is different from parents who use psychological controls on their children. Study subjects were asked how they remembered their parents and psychological controls were more about not respecting privacy and trying to make the child dependent on the parent.

“We know from other studies,” says Stafford, “that if a child shares a secure emotional attachment with their parents, they are better able to form secure attachments in adult life. Parents also give us a stable base from which to explore the world, while warmth and responsiveness has been shown to promote social and emotional development. By contrast, psychological control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behavior.”

While there is no “right” way to parent, this study is showing there are wrong ways. Parents are responsible not just for their children’s physical well being, but for their mental well being as well. Raising children who know boundaries but who are also shown love and respect and are given the opportunities to make their own decisions grow up in to happier adults who will hopefully raise their children the same way.

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