Boys who have a close relationship with their mothers at 14 are 41 per cent less likely to have mental health problems and girls who are close to their fathers are 44 per cent less likely to suffer emotional problems or have trouble with their peers, the research found. Professor Steve McKay from Lincoln School of Social and Political Sciences co-authored the study with Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation.
The analysis, which uses Millennium Cohort Study data from 11,000 mothers, found that the biggest factor affecting teenage mental health was family breakdown.
The study finds that boys and girls are especially influenced by their relationship with the opposite sex parent.
‘Boys who are close to their mum tend to have better mental health, as do girls who are close to their dad. The fact that these links only apply to one parent and not both suggests that it’s the closeness with parents that affects the child’s mental health and not the other way around.’
In addition, boys are affected by whether their parents are married and happy whereas girls are more affected by whether their parents have avoided physical force, poor quality relationship, or low income. So boys seem to be looking for signs of clarity whereas girls are looking for anything that might make relationships difficult. A strong relationship with the parent of the opposite sex boosts self-esteem.
‘We think this is the first study to connect how the relationships that children experience at home are setting them up for their own future relationships as adults.’
University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research
Prof Steve McKay, University of Lincoln, School of Social and Political Sciences