How Children Absorb Parents’ Stress? The research findings & Regression Therapy Perspectives

Researchers have been examining ways in which parental stress can be passed on from parent to child. University of Haifa have found that children may even inherit the effects of mothers stress from events that occurred before conception through their DNA.

Experiments done on female rats showed that stressed female rats showed an expression of a particular protein that prompted cells to release hormones related to stress and anxiety. This hormone in turn caused her to be more stressed and also her babies. This anxious behaviour was passed on to her offspring epigenetically – the stress had nothing to do with the late quality of parental care – this stress protein already existed in large concentration in the eggs of the previously stressed females – before the mom rats become pregnant – suggesting that females eggs were transferring ‘soft wired information’.

Stress can also be transmitted from parent and child through ‘emphatic  stress’. Studies show that merely observing another person in a stressful situation can trigger a physical stress response in you. IF you are with someone who is stressed out, their stress can become your stress, not just emotionally but biologically as your cortisol levels rise along with theirs.

Stress is also absorbed by infants through what is called as ‘contagious emotions’. Researchers at University of California, SF (UCSF) found out through extensive research that babies are very deeply attuned to the emotional tenor of their caregivers before they are verbal and able to fully express themselves. An infant “may not be able to tell you that you seem stressed or ask you what’s wrong but as soon as he/she is in your arms, she is picking up on the bodily responses that accompany the mothers emotional state – transmitted through vocal tension, heart rate, facial expression, odour or other difficult-to-see-mother-to-child avenues of stress contagion”

Research also shows that babies can also pick up on and absorb the stress of parental bickering – including when baby is sleeping. This was also confirmed by a Research down by Oregon Health and Science University researcher – Alice Graham. This was confirmed using FMRI scans when babies were sleeping and mapped the changes in their brains when their parents were arguing while they were sleeping. Their brains were showing signs stress even in sleep, when noises of parents fighting were being heard!

In our therapy sessions we have experienced all of the above in our regression therapy sessions – when clients vividly describe their feelings and emotions being in mother’s womb when mother was afraid, angry or depressed. They also have memories of being infants and picking up anxiety or stress of parents when they fight.

We use our Transformation techniques to help them understand the source of anxiety, fear or stress, release the body charge and re frame the associations from their mind!

Request to parents to please be mindful of their own emotional state and mothers to also be aware that self-work is important to ensure their children are emotionally and mentally stable!

If parents are mindful and do enough self-work, we will have lessor kids who are anxious and stressed!!

Riri Trivedi

Adapted from the following citation(recommended) further reading:

Nakazawa, D. J. (2015). Childhood disrupted: How your biography becomes your biology, and how you can heal. Simon and Schuster.