The middle school period is the more taxing years for mothers than their children’s infancies, reveals a new study.
It is during the middle and high school years of children – perhaps more than ever – that mothers play a decisive role in their kids’ everyday lives as well as experience a hectic schedule in their own lives, says the study.
“Taking care of infants and toddlers is physically exhausting. But as the kids approach puberty, the challenges of parenting are far more complex, and the stakes of ‘things going wrong’ are far greater,” said Suniya Luthar, a professor from Arizona State University in US.
The children during this stage struggle to negotiate some major challenges like dealing with puberty and all that this implies – hormones, acne and changing bodies.
They also have to cope with transition to a relatively impersonal school environment, where academic grades are much more public, the researchers said.
Mothers, who are deeply interested in the well being of their children, also through trying times when children deal with such issues. Concerns about kids’ risky behaviours escalate sharply at their early adolescence, the findings revealed.
Mothers who are essentially the ‘first responders’ to the children’s distress, in trying to figure out how best to offer comfort and reassurance to their children’ often get hurt, as the old ways – hugs, loving words and bedtime stories – no longer work, the study said.
The rejection from the same child who unequivocally adored just a few years earlier can hurt deeply.
In addition, citing other studies the researchers showed that mothers of early adolescents are likely to experience their own developmental challenges as they begin to recognise declines in physical abilities, cognitive functioning and increased awareness of mortality.
The researchers studied more than 2,200 mostly well-educated mothers with children ranging from infants to adults and examined multiple aspects of mothers’ personal well being, parenting and perceptions of their children.
When considering disturbances in mothers’ own adjustment, the study showed “an inverted V shape in feelings of stress and depression, with mothers of middle school children (aged 12 to 14 years) consistently faring the most poorly and mothers of infants and adult children doing the best, the findings showed.
The study suggests information dissemination to mothers in their earlier years of parenting so that they get to know what is in store for them as well as providing ongoing support for the mothers whose children start middle school.
“It is not enough simply to educate the mothers about the teenage years, they must be ‘refueled’ themselves as they shepherd their children through this often tumultuous time,” Luthar said.
The paper was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.