Empathetic Parents Could Be Making Themselves Sick

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There are certainly several ways in which we can be good parents. One way, some might argue, is to show empathy toward your child. Studies have indicated that doing so results in “less depression, less aggression, and more empathy [for the kids],” according to some new research..


But being an empathetic parent apparently is terrible for, you guessed it, the parent. Corinne Purtill writes at Quartz:

A team from Northwestern University has examined the hidden costs of parental empathy. They found that while the children of empathetic parents are better off physically and emotionally, the parents’ cells reveal chronic, low-grade inflammation. When their children suffer psychologically, empathetic parents’ immune systems take a hit.

Since empathy suggests that we’re putting others’ feelings and thoughts before our own, the result of caring for someone in such a way can lead to higher stress, less sleep and less exercise.

So what is one to do?

“Things like getting enough sleep, exercising, and reducing stress are all related to these types of immune processes,” Manczak [authore of the study] told Quartz. “It’s not selfish for parents to make time for those things—it’s actually critical for their own mental and physical health.”


Perhaps a less empathic approach would be the way to go. Not only will it result in a happier, healthier mom and dad, but maybe the kids would fare better as well. As one friend said to me recently, “NO ONE likes that kid on the baseball team who has to come out every inning with a boo boo and whose mom runs over to the bench with an ice pack.” If being less empathic can avoid that, sign me up!


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