YOU might be a bit strict with your child sometimes – after all, their bedroom isn’t going to clean itself.

But scientists have warned that overbearing and controlling parents can wreak havoc on their child’s later mental health.

Researchers at The Leuven University, Belgium have found that children with “harsh”, authoritarian parents are more likely to develop depression.

Lead author Dr Evelien Van Assche said: "We discovered that perceived harsh parenting, with physical punishment and psychological manipulation, can introduce an additional set of instructions on how a gene is read to become hard-wired into DNA.”

These changes may “predispose the growing child to depression”.

She added: "This does not happen to the same extent if the children have had a supportive upbringing."

Depression currently affects one in five Brits, and the hope is this discovery could lead to a screening programme to help identify and treat people at greater risk.

The study was based on 23 Belgian boys and girls aged 12-16 who reported strict parenting, compared to a group of 21 children who reported having good, supportive parents that gave them autonomy.

The researchers then used genome mapping and found the first group had increased variation in 'methylation' – a biological process – which is linked with depression. 

Dr Van Assche said: "Those who reported harsher parenting showed a tendency towards depression.

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"We believe this tendency has been baked into their DNA through increased variation in methylation.

"We are now seeing if we can close the loop by linking it to a later diagnosis of depression, and perhaps use this increased methylation variation as a marker to give advance warning of who might be at greater risk of developing depression as a result of their upbringing."

The research is still in its early stages and more needs to be investigated.

However, the researchers believe authoritarian 'tiger mum' style parenting may have a negative impact on mental health, alongside other childhood stresses.

Dr Van Assche said: "Stresses in childhood may lead to a general tendency to depression in later life by altering the way your DNA is read."

She added: "In this study we investigated the role of harsh parenting, but it's likely that any significant stress will lead to such changes in DNA methylation.

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"So, in general, stresses in childhood may lead to a general tendency to depression in later life by altering the way your DNA is read.

"However, these results need to be confirmed in a larger sample."

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