The participants were 146 mothers and 146 fathers recruited from maternity wards in Oxford and Milton Keynes, as part of the Oxford Fathers Study, and followed up for two years from the birth of their child. These mothers and fathers assessed the quality of the parenting they received when they were children using the Parental Bonding Instrument. The quality of their own parenting behaviour was assessed by video-recorded observations of their parent-child interactions at home at 24 months.
We found that a higher level of affection by grandmothers was associated with more positive parenting behaviour in fathers. A higher level of control by grandmothers was associated with more negative parenting behaviours in mothers and fathers. The associations found in this study were consistent with previous studies (that around 20-40% of parenting behaviour may be transmitted inter-generationally). None of the grandfathers’ parenting variables were associated with the parenting behaviours of mothers and fathers in the cohort.
The results should be interpreted with caution due to the various study limitations. However, the results may be useful to inform clinicians and commissioners of parenting interventions of the potential longer-term benefits of parenting interventions, realised across generations. Since most current health economic studies of parenting interventions only consider short-term benefits, they are likely to underestimate the longer-term benefits due to interruption of intergenerational transmission of adverse parenting behaviours.
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Vaishnavee Madden is a public health doctor with an interest in child public health and public mental health. She held an Academic Clinical Fellowship at Imperial College, and during this time undertook this research on the intergenerational transmission of parenting