It should be no surprise that parenting comes with a fair amount of risks. Raising a whole other human being from the ground up takes a lot of work, but it's work that millions of people choose to take on every year because of the joys that it brings. Seeing that person you raise thrive in their own lives after decades of work? Priceless.
However, a recent study has revealed a darker side to parenting. Well, parenting some children, anyway.
A Parent's Sacrifice
Any parent would tell you that raising a child is no easy feat. It involves a lot of strenuous work, pushing both your brain and your body to its limits. It's also an extremely delicate process. All it takes is for one little thing to go wrong for things to fall apart entirely.
Parents sacrifice so much for their kids—time, money, opportunities, and, according to the results of a recent study, some parents even give up more of their minds in the process.
The First Pool
The study, which involved over 13,000 parents in the U.S., found that raising one type of child poses much more risk to parents' mental and physical development as they age.
The team, comprised of researchers from Charles University in Prague and Columbia University in New York, found their participants thanks to an ongoing lifestyle study of over 30,000 people over 50 and their spouses.
By looking through that pool, they found their eligible 13,000.
The Children In Question
This group reported their gender and the number of children they've had. They also took regular cognitive tests that assessed things like memory, concentration, thinking, and understanding.
Of the roughly 13,000 subjects, an exact total of 10,872 had at least one male child. There were 4,862 who had only one son, 3,523 had two, and 2,487 had three or more.
For the parents with no sons, 891 had only one daughter, 905 had two, and 554 had three or more.
Every Measure Counted
After analyzing all this data, they published their findings in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. They discovered that parents with at least one son experienced faster cognitive decline than those without sons.
If they had more than one son, they experienced even faster cognitive decline than parents who only had daughters, regardless of if the parents with daughters had one or multiple.
The rates of decline were similar for both mothers and fathers of sons. These conclusions remained true no matter the sociodemographic details of the family and taking into account any pre-existing health factors.
The Common Denominator
Since these results were so similar across every board, the team felt they could comfortably conclude that parenting sons "might play a role in cognitive aging."
The reasoning behind why sons caused such a rapid decrease in mental facilities was not investigated, but the research team has their hypotheses.
One theory suggested that daughters are more likely to support their parents in their older years and offer emotional support, which are two things that help maintain health as they age.
A Physical Element
As the team put it, parents of sons might be more likely to be "disadvantaged later in life as daughters provide more social support than sons and more often become informal caregivers."
Having daughters versus sons is also linked to a number of physical health differences.
Parents of daughters are less likely to drink alcohol in excess, use recreational substances, or smoke cigarettes. Meanwhile, mothers of sons are more likely to do those things and tend to have a higher average weight than mothers of only daughters.
Any Type Of Child
This combination of better mental and physical health for parents of only daughters "may contribute to lower risk of dementia," the team wrote.
This doesn't just include biological children either. This data all remained true whether the children were biologically related to the parent, were step-children, or were adopted. This means it likely isn't something physiologically different about having sons that is affecting the mother's body and the rates they age.
Not The Only Factor
Instead, it appears that this strange discovery is entirely social.
Of course, there's far more to long-term cognitive health and ability than just what gender your children are. If you've only had boys, you're not doomed to a diagnosis of early onset dementia, nor are you free from it if you've only had daughters.
Though these findings are fascinating and learning why these trends take place is worthwhile for the collective health of parents, you're still best off taking care of yourself in ways that are proven to help keep you in good standing with your body. Eat well, exercise, challenge your brain, and practice mindfulness, if not for yourself, then to be a good example for your kids.
As mentioned earlier, raising kids can be a major hit on funds. It takes a lot to make sure another human being stays alive for years before they can do it on their own. If you want to learn how you can attract money endlessly, listen up.