Positive parenting improves multiple aspects of health and well-being in young adulthood.


Human Flourishing Program, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA. [Email]


Aspects of positive parenting have previously been linked to better offspring health and well-being1,2, though often, individual outcomes have been examined separately. Examining multiple outcomes simultaneously, over multiple aspects of parenting, may provide a more holistic picture of the parenting-health dynamics3,4. Methodological limitations such as reverse causation-good childhood outcomes that make parenting easier-also remain a concern in many previous observational studies5. Here we examined the associations between multiple aspects of parenting (including parent-child relationship satisfaction concerning love, parental authoritativeness and family dinner frequency) and various subsequent offspring psychosocial, mental, behavioural and physical health and well-being outcomes. We analysed longitudinal data from the Growing Up Today Study 1 (N = 8,476, mean baseline age = 12.78 years) and Growing Up Today Study 2 (N = 5,453, mean baseline age = 17.75 years). Both parenting and health outcomes were based on offspring self-reports. The results suggest that greater relationship satisfaction was associated with greater emotional well-being, lower risk of mental illness, eating disorders, overweight or obesity and marijuana use. To a lesser extent, greater parental authoritativeness and regular family dinner were also associated with greater offspring emotional well-being, fewer depressive symptoms, lower risk of overeating and certain sexual behaviours. This study strengthens the evidence for a public health focus on improving parenting to promote population health and well-being.