Research shows middle school tougher on moms than kids

Moms need network of support to navigate these trying years

ROANOKE, Va. – It's back-to-school season for many students in our region. 

Middle school is tough for kids, but new research shows that it may be even tougher for their moms. 

Arizona State University psychology professor Suniya Luthar tracked moms' well-being through the development stages of their kids from infancy to college. 

She focused on moms because they are usually the primary caregiver. 

 The researcher found that moms are more distressed and feel the most challenged during kids' early teen years. 

Jen Clausing's daughter,  Jadyn, starts middle school this year. Clausing can't forget how she felt when Jadyn's sister, Macy, started there three years ago. 

"It was like all of a sudden, she, you know, looked older, was acting older, and all of a sudden had the bigger responsibilities all within, seriously, two weeks. And I remember just feeling completely overwhelmed," Clausing said.

"There was one stage where everyone peaked, the bad things, and the stress, and that was middle school," Luthar said.

Luthar measured moms' adjustment during their kid's middle school years. They scored lower for life satisfaction and higher for stress, emptiness, guilt, and child negative behaviors than moms with kids of other ages.

Luthar says moms are unprepared for all the changes.

"Suddenly, this child morphs into this weird person who looks at you with distance and sometimes even dislike and scorn. That's awfully hard," Luthar said.

She says moms need more support from family, friends, and support groups during and before the middle school years.

"Imagine what your kids need from you. That is what you need from other people, and that needs to be in place and that needs to be respected, prioritized and sustained," Luthar said.

Clausing was in one of Luthar's authentic connections online support groups and feels the pieces will fit together better the second time around.

Luthar says husbands and partners can offer good support, but moms need a "sister network" as well. 

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