I Can't Go Back There! Are Genetics to Blame for Back-to-School Jitters?
With parents sending kids back to school the last couple of weeks, maybe they noticed they have been more anxious.
Results from a study started in 1984 by Université de Montréal researcher Richard Tremblay says that anxious young students tend to inherit their anxieties from their parents.
“There is a big genetic effect in terms of anxiety behaviours,” Tremblay says in a press release. “The best predictors of anxiety or depression among children are their parents’ own struggles with the same disorders. In other words, if you have a very anxious mother or father, you are at high risk of being an anxious child.”
He says parents pass on their anxious tendencies to their children through their genes and while starting school is a “big change in the rhythm of life for everybody,” those predisposed to it can be worse off.
“A child’s anxiety can be amplified by their environment,” he adds. “If you’re brought up by an anxious mother or father and you’re genetically predisposed to these conditions, you will have a difficult time learning how to control your anxiety.”
Tremblay, a professor emeritus, specializes in childhood psychology and psychiatry, particularly antisocial behavior. He says being overly anxious in school can lead to not being able to pay attention leading to lower grades and it could affect social interactions.
Tremblay also calls it a “meta problem,” meaning already jittery students can be anxious about being anxious.
He suggests that parents monitor their children and consider how they coped when they were kids and seek help from the school, counselors or even grandparents.
“Grandmama knows things that can be very helpful,” says Tremblay. “People imagine that new psychological knowledge will solve all their problems but those old experiences are very good.”