Parenting for a Caring World

  "Secure Babies, Strong Children, Successful Adults"

Capital can be defined as a form of wealth that is used to produce more wealth. 

Social capital refers to the positive and supportive relationships between
people that produce some form of wealth for the individuals and communities involved. The wealth produced can be financial, emotional, physical and/or intellectual. 

Investment in social capital produces wealth at all levels of society, but PCW
focuses on the power of social capital to positively impact individuals. Parents need supportive relationships and so do babies. 

Why is it important to be aware of the impact of social capital? 

Because in surveys most people report that financial factors have the greatest impact on their “life satisfaction,” but the data show that this is not true. It is relationships that most strongly affect life satisfaction. The quality and supportiveness of our relationships also affect our emotional health and even our physical health and well-being. 
Social Capital
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A study of 286 healthy volunteers, ages 18 to 55, found that those who had 6 or more types of social ties were 4 times less likely to come down with the common cold than those who had few (1 to 3)  types of social ties. The social ties that exercised a protective effect included those with a spouse, parent, friend, co-worker and/or a fellow member of a social group. (In the study, subjects were given nasal drops containing a rhinovirus and then monitored for the development of the common cold.) Subjects with 6 or more different kinds of social ties were not only less likely to get sick, but if they did get sick, they produced less mucous and their nasal passages stayed clearer.
                 -    Study done by Cohen et al., published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1997
What does the research show?
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A study of 100 men and 94 women who were hospitalized with a myocardial infarction (heart attack) found that those who had reported between zero and one source of emotional support died at a significantly higher rate than those who reported two or more sources of such support. Among those who died in the hospital, those who had no sources of support accounted for 38% of the deaths, while only 11.5% of those who had 2 or more sources of emotional support died while hospitalized. Six months later, 52.8% of those with no sources of emotional support had died, whereas only 36% of those with 1 source of support and 23.1% of those with 2 or more sources of those with support had died.
                                                         -   Study done by  Berkman, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 1995

In the words of two researchers, the number and quality of our relationships clearly affect: 

        "[our] mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk...Studies show that social relationships have 
          short- and long-term effects on health, for better and for worse, and that these effects emerge in childhood and cascade
          throughout life to foster cumulative advantage or disadvantage in health."    
                                                                 - Umberson and Montez, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in 2010

Below are two examples of studies on the importance of social support. One shows that social capital can protect 
against the common cold and the other that social capital significantly reduces the risk of dying after a heart attack.

What implications do the findings of these and similar studies have for parents and parenting? 

Parenting takes an enormous amount of time and energy, but many parents think they're "weak" if they turn to others for support. The research shows that even our physical health is affected by the amount of social capital we have, by the strength and quality of the supportive relationships we have.  Parents demonstrate their strength when they acknowledge their needs and limitations and ask for what they need. (We offer information and support through private consultations with a caring and experienced Parenting Consultant.)

The research has significant implications for childrearing. Adults have fully developed cognitive abilities and coping skills, yet we are significantly and negatively impacted when we don’t have supportive relationships. It stands to reason that our vulnerable, immature babies and children are much more negatively impacted when deprived of the support they need, and there are research findings from many fields that support this conclusion.  

How can relationships and social support affect our physical health?

Our minds, emotions and bodies are all interconnected; what affects one will, to a greater or lesser extent, affect the others. As Dr. David Spiegel explains:

               "Our moment-to-moment experience of life rests upon constant 
                 translation of mental processes into physical processes."

The converging evidence from many studies leaves no room for doubt that social capital has a definite impact on physical health, as well as on our mental and emotional health.