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Study: Kids With Controlling Parents Grow Up to Be Meaner

Parents who manipulate their children could turn them into mean adults.

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If you've ever try to subtly nudge your child into being a little more like you, or like some perfect vision of them you have dancing in your head, you may want to reconsider. A new study found that parents who manipulate their children into being who they want them to be could turn them into mean adults.

Researchers at the University of Vermont studied the sweat levels—yes, sweat!—of 180 college students as they recount a painful event such as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or losing someone close to them. The more the subjects sweat, the more upset they tended to be. This state is apparently called "high arousal."

Researchers found that participants with "high arousal" levels were more likely to be hot-headed and rash, and therefore more likely to lash out at people around them. Meanwhile, the students who sweated less exhibited what is called "blunted arousal," and found it easier to stay calm.

So what's all this got to do with their parents? And why college students? Because apparently, even when kids leave home, their parents are still able to exert control over their lives. "You don't have to be in person to manipulate your kids' thoughts and emotions," said lead researcher Jamie Abaied in a statement.

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Abaied used a questionnaire to determine the exact levels of parental control in students' lives. "Basically, we were trying to get...their bodies to demonstrate their stress response to us," she said. "If you're calm, you can be strategic and planned in your aggression. You can really use your aggression to control your relationship and stay dominant over your peers."

Abaied found that the kids who grew up with laid-back parents were more likely to exhibit "blunted arousal."

"We need to be really mindful of how influential the parents are," she said. "It seems like good parenting protects them. Good parenting prevents them from being aggressive in their peer relationships."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld