How Your Anxiety Can Affect Your Child’s Behavior

6 comments

Preparing to bring a little one into the world is stressful. The physical strain on the mother from the pregnancy, the anticipated financial burdens, the emotional struggle of knowing how much your life is going to change – all of these things will likely weigh on you at some point during pregnancy.

Having some apprehension when you’re expecting is practically unavoidable, but more serious stress isn’t uncommon. And it usually only increases once the baby arrives and you throw sleep deprivation and a tiny little human into the mix.

A recent study examined the relationship between emotional struggle for both parents and behavior problem in toddlers. The researchers studied 438 first-time moms and dads and followed up with them and their children at 4, 14, and 24 months postpartum.

At each stage, parents were evaluated for symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as the emotional state of their relationship. Parents also answered questions about behavioral issues in their children, including tantrums, clingyness, and restlessness.

Photo by Vera Arsic

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the mental health of parents had a direct impact on the toddlers’ behavior problems.

Relationship problems between mothers and fathers also increased the likelihood of emotional strain for two-year-olds.

The researchers who conducted the study emphasized how it demonstrates the importance of better support for couples who are becoming parents.


Anxiety has always been something I grapple with. The stresses of life can send me into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions if I don’t manage them well or get help when I need it.

I was very stressed when I found out I was going to become a mother. It wasn’t a planned pregnancy and the timing wasn’t great – we had already started planning a wedding that would be three months before my due date. I also worked a job I didn’t enjoy, that was very demanding of my time, and was an enormous emotional drain.

I don’t think I’d go as far as to say my toddler has extreme behavior problems, but he is definitely emotionally sensitive and is my “difficult” child. He was terribly colicky as a baby and cried a LOT, so there was a lot of doubt and easiness for both me and my husband after he was born. We also live a state away from all of our family members, so support during our transition was limited.

In light of the results of this study, I don’t think it is surprising that my son’s emotions are what they are. My emotional unrest clearly impacted him. It’s also a contrast to his younger sister, who we were much better prepared for and who is a much more easy-going baby (time will tell what kind of toddler she becomes!).


But now I want to hear your story. Were you anxious or relaxed about becoming a parent? Did you have a good support system? Do you think your emotions affected your child as a toddler? Tell me in the comments!


By the way, if you’re a new mama and are feeling totally stressed out, check out my 7 Ways To Practice Self-Care When You’re an Overwhelmed Mom.

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6 comments on “How Your Anxiety Can Affect Your Child’s Behavior”

  1. Such an interesting post! I didn’t have prenatal anxiety, but definitely postpartum anxiety and I could tell it affected my son as a newborn.

    Like

  2. I have always believed that parents’ energy and emotions do affect the children. Maybe not 100% but to an extent. I suffer from depression and knew I needed to get help, so I could be a better mom for my daughter and have her know that its okay to get help and that mom can be happy too.

    Like

  3. I never knew all of these statistics but I am not too shocked since our little ones always feed off of us. I had to learn quickly that the more anxious I was, so was my little girl.

    Like

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