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The sins of the mothers

"Fathers still have a significant effect on the development of their kids' patterns of thinking."

Shared parenting can work as a balance and check for children, protecting them from toxic mothers and providing them with love and care from their fathers, who can make significant positive contributions in and to their lives.


The Sydney Morning Herald
12 September 2008

The sins of the mothers
By Adele Horin

When Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears ran amok, the public blamed their mothers. Their fathers - Lohan's had served time in jail and had addiction problems - escaped rebuke entirely.

Now an Australian study provides some evidence that bad mothering has a worse effect on children than bad fathering.

It shows that mothers who exhibit "toxic" behaviours - from being cold and indifferent to being abusive, manipulative or over-controlling - are far more likely to warp their children's outlook on life than fathers with similar behaviour.

Wayne Warburton, a research fellow at Macquarie University's Children and Families Research Centre, said: "Mothers have a really powerful effect on the way their kids view the world and themselves, probably because kids spend more time with their mothers, especially in the crucial early years."

Dr Warburton asked 441 university students to fill out detailed questionnaires on the parenting styles of their mothers and fathers, and on their own patterns of thinking.

He asked them to recall 72 parenting behaviours, including "making a child feel ashamed", being unloving or rejecting, and frequently telling the child they were stupid or would fail. He also asked questions designed to uncover destructive thinking patterns in the students, such as being "clingy" out of a fear of being abandoned.

He found young adults were two-thirds as likely to develop unhelpful patterns of thinking if the toxic parenting they had experienced came from their father rather than their mother.

If a range of poor parenting behaviours existed, they tended to be found in the same parent, the study found.

Just over 22 per cent of the mothers and 14 per cent of the fathers were classified as toxic.

Dr Warburton said he was surprised that toxic mothers outnumbered toxic fathers. "When I first saw the figure I thought many of the people came from single-parent families but that wasn't true. I'm at a loss to explain it."


He said while mothers had more influence on their children, it was surprising that fathers had two-thirds the effect of mothers, given their lower levels of contact. "Fathers still have a significant effect on the development of their kids' patterns of thinking."

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