07/10/2011 10:36 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Stressed Mums Become 'Hostile' Towards Children

Stressed mother and baby PA

A study has claimed the combination of stress and motherhood is a "toxic mix" which can leave mums feeling and behaving in a hostile and insensitive way towards their children.

The research was carried out on 153 mums who had toddlers aged between 17-19 months.

The psychologists observing the mums and toddlers noted that some stressed out mothers treated their little ones roughly, insulted them, and spoke to them in an angry tone of voice when the child was upset or crying.

The report's lead author Melissa Sturge-Apple, of New York's University of Rochester, said in the ­Development and Psychopathology journal: "Stress makes it hard to be positive."

The study also revealed that strains like poverty or depression disrupt the body's natural stress response, affecting a mother's behaviour towards her child.

Although the effects of stress have been examined and well documented in children and linked to a number of diseases in adults, Rochester University's study is the first to look specifically at stress and parenting.

Ms Sturge-Apple said: "Stress gets under your skin. It is not just in our heads, it's in our bodies."

The findings, published in Development and Psychopathology, concluded that although the popular image of depression is of someone who is listless and sad, the research confirms what clinicians have long observed, that depression in mothers sometimes is linked to harsh, highly reactive parenting, rather than subdued mothering.

Does this sound familiar to you?
Has stress led you to be harsh or insensitive to your children?