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New Study Suggests Your Terrible Boss May Be Making You a Worse Parent

The small aggressions at work could have you micromanaging your kid.

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A new parenting study by way of the American Psychological Association is giving even more credence to the saying that ‘hurt people hurt people.’ The study has found that it’s particularly unhealthy for parents to have terrible coworkers or are forced to deal with hostile work environments. Beyond the clear toll it takes on them personally, when it comes to their kids, they become more likely to engage in damaging and overly strict parenting practices.

To conduct the study, called Uncivil Workplace, Uncivil Home: Workplace Incivility and Harmful Parenting Behavior researchers spoke with 146 working mothers and their partners to understand the extensive effects of a terrible work environment.

“These findings reveal some previously undocumented ways that women, in particular, suffer as a result of workplace aggression,” said researcher Angela Dionisi, PhD, of Carleton University. “In uncovering how this mistreatment in the workplace interferes with positive mother-child interactions, this research also speaks to a previously unacknowledged group of indirect incivility victims, namely children.”

As the study notes, someone’s boss doesn’t have to be screaming at the top of their lungs for the effects of a bad work environment to be felt. Researchers describe workplace incivility as a driver behind stricter parenting and define it as “any behavior that is rude, disrespectful, impolite or otherwise violates workplace norms of respect,” before highlighting how this incivility displays “a lack of concern for others.”

Researchers noted that, more specifically, the negativity one experiences at work can make them more “authoritarian” parents. This results in parents that are more likely to create rules for their children that must be followed unconditionally, give “very little in the way of feedback and nurturance,” and punish mistakes more harshly. Moreover, they’re more prone to helicopter parenting and valuing discipline over fun.  Though being too lax of a parent can have its own pitfalls, they’re very different than what comes of micromanaging children. 

“Research suggests that authoritarian parenting is more of a negative style of parenting as compared to other parenting styles,” said co-author Kathryne Dupre. “This style of parenting has been associated with a variety of negative child outcomes, including associating obedience and success with love, exhibiting aggressive behavior outside the home, being fearful or overly shy around others, having difficulty in social situations due to a lack of social competence, suffering from depression and anxiety, and struggling with self-control.”