Parents are often at the center of an intimate relationship, but that doesn’t always translate into children.
The odds of one parent divorcing their child are on the rise and a new study suggests that Nicki is the most at risk.
A new study released by the National Survey on Family Relationships suggests that parents in the Midwest, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota, are the least likely to have an active, loving relationship with their children.
“In general, we know that when people have an open relationship with one another, they are happier,” says Dr. Christine Mancuso, the lead author of the study.
“But we have this tendency to see this as a kind of closed relationship where people are in total control of their relationship, their children’s relationship, and their parents relationship.”
This may seem counterintuitive to many parents, who are increasingly trusting of their children and parents’ relationship, which is not the case for some.
But, Mancoso says, parents may not realize that open and caring relationships are often a good thing.
“I think it’s really hard for people to think that because they have a close relationship with somebody, that their children are necessarily better off, and that that’s why they’re having these open relationships,” she says.
“People may think, ‘Oh my god, it’s just an open friendship, but you know, I can’t see it.'”
The study looked at 5,000 U.S. adults from 2009 to 2012.
It found that of the 619,000 people surveyed, 39% of respondents had an open, loving, committed relationship with a parent, and 29% had a closed relationship with either a parent or a child.
The next highest percentage was 25%.
The next lowest percentage was 14%.
The bottom two were 4% and 1%.
The study also looked at whether a parent had been the most emotionally abusive toward their child.
“The people who are most likely [to have an abusive relationship] are the ones who have a very long history of abuse,” says Manciso.
“So they’re people who’ve been involved with the family, have been abused in some way.
And we find that people who have been very involved with children and their families have the lowest rates of being abusive to their children.”
The survey also looked specifically at how often people in a relationship reported physical and/or sexual abuse.
“These were the relationships that were the most frequent in our study, and they were very high in terms of the frequency of physical and sexual abuse,” Mancsoso explains.
“It seems like there’s a very clear correlation between abuse and open relationships.
We also found that, when we looked at the children, the kids were not at a significantly lower risk for having an abusive, controlling relationship than their peers.
So, the children are actually in a better position than their parents to protect them from being harmed in the future.”
It’s worth noting that Manci and her colleagues analyzed only the relationship between the parent and child.
It’s not clear if it also included sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
However, the study does suggest that open relationships may also be a good way to bond with children.
When asked about how often they shared an open and loving relationship, 42% of people said they had done so at least weekly, a number that is roughly double the rate for their peers who reported being more physically and/of the same type of abuse.
It is important to note, however, that this is a “lifetime” survey, and it only measures the frequency with which people reported an open or loving relationship.
“There’s so much we can learn from this,” says Jennifer Miller, the director of the Children’s Bureau at the University of Pennsylvania, who is not involved in the study but who is familiar with the research.
“When I’m out with my kids and we talk about the past, I try to think about the future and ask them, ‘Are you open with your parents, are you open to the idea of open relationships?'”
She says there is some good news, though.
“As we move forward, there is a lot of research that suggests that when kids are given the tools to have these open and supportive relationships with their parents, they’re less likely to abuse or mistreat their siblings, and this is one of the things that has a direct impact on their quality of life.”
Mancys study also found a strong correlation between children being exposed to abuse and having an open loving relationship and being less likely than their siblings to be abused.
“We know from the research that the more kids that have a relationship with someone who is an abusive parent, the less likely they are to be exposed to that type of abusive behavior,” Mascuso says.
Another finding was that children were more likely to be physically and emotionally abused in relationships