Parents who over criticize their children put them at risk of depression and anxiety.
Children who are put down by their parents use coping strategies which make them avoid emotions.
They pay less attention to the emotions shown in other people’s facial expressions.
While this protects them from negative emotion it also prevents them from seeing positive expressions which could help them.
This behavior “could be one reason why children exposed to high levels of criticism are at risk for things like depression and anxiety,” says psychologist Kiera James.
James and her fellow reseachers talked to parents of 7-11 year old children about their child and coded the interviews for levels of criticism.
They then showed these children a series of pictures of faces showing different emotions.
They found that the children of highly critical parents paid less attention to all of the emotional facial expressions.
“We know from previous research that people have a tendency to avoid things that make them uncomfortable, anxious, or sad because such feelings are aversive.
“We also know that children with a critical parent are more likely to use avoidant coping strategies when they are in distress than children without a critical parent,” said James.
The researchers at Binghamton University, State Univertiy at New York, concluded that the children’s coping behaviour could also preventing them from seeing positive approval from others.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.