The power of parenthood
While viruses can infect anyone, a new study finds that parents
may have some extra resistance to colds, says Sheldon Cohen,
PhD, who directs the Laboratory for the Study of Stress, Immunity
and Disease at Carnegie Mellon University. In a study with 795
participants, Cohen found that parents age 25 or older were less
likely to develop colds after they were exposed to viruses than
were people with no children, although parenthood didn’t help
protect parents ages 18 to 24 from colds (Psychosomatic Medicine,
2012). Older parents were less susceptible to colds regardless of
whether they were married or whether their children still lived at
home. The benefit of being a parent was independent of antibody
levels to the cold virus, indicating that the association was not
attributable to parents’ developing more immunity by being
exposed to viruses their children brought home.
The study didn’t explain why older parents were less
susceptible to colds, but the researchers theorize that parenthood
may produce feelings of purpose in life and positive emotional
experiences that help boost their immune systems. Younger
parents may not receive the same protective benefit against colds
because they are less prepared psychologically and economically
to be parents and may feel more overwhelmed, Cohen says.
A positive emotional style or outlook on life may also help
ward off colds, according to another of Cohen’s studies. His
research team measured emotional styles of 193 participants
who were later exposed to a cold or flu virus through nasal
drops. Although 81 percent of the participants were infected,
only a third developed colds with physical symptoms. The
people with more positive emotional styles were less likely to
get colds or the flu and reported fewer symptoms than expected
when they did get sick (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2006).
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FEBRUARY 15, 2013
1:00–4:00 p.m. EST
Coping with Vicarious Trauma, Building
Resilience, and the Ethics of Self-Care
Presenter: Vladimir Nacev, PhD, ABPP
MARCH 15, 2013
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Trauma-Informed Parenting &
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