Background Parental characteristics play a fundamental role on children’s achievements. Studies have shown that parents’ education, income, health, amongst others, have an undeniable short- and long-term effect on their children’s social, economic and health outcomes. However, little attention has been focused on how other parental traits also influence child development. In this paper we examine associations between parental gender attitudes, environmental behaviour and political views on their children’s mental health.
Methods The UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) is a stratified random sample of UK households in 2009, with additional ethnic minority boost samples. We analyse data on around 8,000 children aged 5 and 8 years old using waves 3 to 11. Children’s mental health is measured by five subscales of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer relationship problems and prosocial behavior. Regression estimates are obtained individually for each subscale as outcome variables. Indexes on gender attitudes, environmental behaviour and political views, our main explanatory variables, are created using specific items available in the questionnaire tailored to measure each of these three parental attributes. Estimations are performed separately for mothers and fathers and models control for parental socio-demographic characteristics such as educational attainment, marital status and employment status.
Results Main results reveal that children are more prosocial (β = 0.07, 95% CI: 0.03–0.10) and exhibit less emotional symptoms (β = -0.05, 95% CI: [-0.08]-[-0.01] when mothers have more egalitarian gender values. On the contrary, children are more prosocial (β = 0.06, 95% CI: 0.02–0.11) exhibit less emotional symptoms (β = -0.04, 95% CI: [-0.09]-[-0.0005], less peer relationship problems (β = -0.07, 95% CI: [-0.11]-[-0.02]), less hyperactivity (β = -0.06, 95% CI: [-0.10]-[0.02]) and less conduct problems (β = -0.07, 95% CI: [-0.12]-[-0.02]) when fathers have stronger political views.
Conclusion Environmental behaviour, neither from the mother nor from the father, show a clear statistical pattern. Overall, our findings provide new evidence about the influence of other parental attributes, not very often acknowledged, on child development outcomes.
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