Plenty of fathers like to describe their daughters as their little 'princess'. However, a new study is telling dads to hang up the tiaras and be more competitive with their girls.


Researchers from Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health teamed up with others from the University of Amsterdam and the University of Reading to examine how challenging parenting behaviour, or CPB, affects children's anxiety levels.


CPB involves encouraging kids to take safe risks. Parents who use CPB might give their child a small fright, engage in rough-and-tumble play, or let their child lose a game. These activities make kids better at going outside their comfort zone and at asserting themselves socially.


In a survey of 312 families with preschool-age kids in the Netherlands and Australia, children of parents who pushed them to their limits more using CPB were less likely to exhibit anxiety disorder symptoms.



"While previous research has shown that encouraging risk-taking behaviours helps cognitive, social and emotional development, our study shows that this method of parenting may also help reduce the risk of children developing an anxiety disorder," Professor Jennie Hudson, Director of Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University and co-author of the study, explained.


One of the other very curious findings was that fathers tended to be more competitive with their sons than with their daughters.


"While Dutch and Australian mothers showed no differences in CPB towards their sons or daughters, both Dutch and Australian fathers of sons demonstrated more competition towards their sons than fathers of daughters. Dutch fathers, in particular, reported more rough-and-tumble play than the other groups of parents," noted another co-author, Rebecca Lazarus from Macquarie University.


It seems that dads who treat their daughters like princesses may actually be putting them at risk of anxiety.



Public Health England found in 2016 that 2.2 percent of five- to 10-year-olds and 4.4 percent of 11- to 16-year-olds in England suffer from an anxiety disorder. They noted that these disorders are more prevalent in girls.


The research team from Macquarie University are hoping that their findings on CPB help to reduce these percentages.


"While this isn’t a cure for anxiety, and we cannot at this stage determine causality, the results are promising in terms of parent education. By gently encouraging their kids in a reasonable way to push their limits, parents could be helping to reduce their child’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder, which is a great insight," Professor Hudson stated.


Are you surprised by these findings, mums? Let us know!