HEALTHY LIVING  |  2.8.19  |  by Gia Dolney

A Harvard University study has just come out that is so unique to the study of parenthood.  Instead of studying how abuse or other negative factors affect a child’s life, the study focused on parental love — which, interestingly, is under-studied.  In particular, the study was how parental warm love affects a child’s life into adulthood.  And the results are worth talking about.  Because — no surprise here — the more warm love you give your child, the study found that your child’s entire life is affected for the positive, well into adulthood.

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What Is Warm Love?

It may be easiest to talk about warm parental love by defining what it is not.  Warm love is not being cold, unsupportive, or neglectful.  It’s not about increasing a child’s stress.  It’s also not about making the child feel more emotionally insecure or causing distress.

Rather, warm love, as you would imagine, is all about positive parenting.

Positive parenting, as described in the Harvard study, —

provides children with a sense of emotional security and social integration. It shapes children’s trust and positive expectations of others, and boosts a sense of self-worth.

Positive parenting also helps a child be resilient, maintain health, and provide the support a child needs to manage multiple aspects of personal well being into full adulthood.

Warm love includes multiple parental dimensions

  • Affection
    • Hugs
    • Kisses
    • Tender words and actions that communicate love, liking, and compassion
    • Holding and rocking a child in your arms
  • Nurturing
    • Teaching your child about life — how to solve problems, how things work, healthy lifestyle habits, how to be independent
    • Being a good example for your child
  • Involvement
    • Spending time with your children
    • Listening
    • Attending events and other activities that your child is involved in

How Warm Love Changes Your Child’s Life

The interesting part about the study wasn’t that the child was happier and better cared for with warm love and positive parenting — though that is great! — rather they studied this question: did the warm love help a child to better flourish later in life?

The result was absolutely yes!

Most all parents want their children to succeed now and in the future.  And it can be hugely disappointing and stressful to see a child grow into adulthood and not navigate that well.

The good news is that you can increase the chances that your child will succeed in adult life simply by offering up warm love.  In fact, the study found that adults who were warmly loved by parents as a child were more likely in adulthood to —

  • not use drugs
  • not smoke
  • not have depression
  • have better emotional well-being
  • have better social well-being
  • have better psychological / mental well-being
  • flourish in mid life

Flourishing according to the study means that your child in mid life would feel good about life, feel that life is going well, and have better health and overall well-being.

It may start at home: A standard deviation increase in parental warmth has been found to contribute significantly to positive behavioral outcomes in later life, suggesting that improved parenting may lead to a flourishing mid-life.

How to Introduce More Warmth Into Your Parenting

Go through the list above of basic warm parental skills — affection, nurturing, involvement.  Make goals, bit by bit, to shift your behaviors and time toward those warm parenting aspects.

If you feel like you currently have negative ways of parenting that don’t allow for much warmth, look to a positive parenting course to help.  Active Parenting is a great program that we like at SMG because of the positive and problem-solving approach — they have both online and on-location classes.

Here’s an online quiz you can take to learn more about your current parenting style.  And you can also learn about child development, which helps you have more realistic expectations about children.