Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Are Parents More or Less Susceptible to Catching Colds?

Are parents more prone to catch colds or more cold-resistant, and why?

A common belief is that parents are more prone to colds because they are exposed to more viruses from their children. The exact opposite is true, according to recent research. Psychologist Sheldon Cohen and his colleagues found that parents over 25 years of age are less likely to have colds than non-parents.

The first thought that comes to mind is that parents are indeed exposed to more viruses, but that builds up their immune systems and makes them more cold-resistant, but that is not the case. Cohen controlled for this and found that being a parent was independent of possession of cold virus antibodies. So, it seems that being a parent is what matters. Cohen’s explanation is that parents have a sense of life meaning and purpose that somehow protects them from colds.

In Cohen’s previous research he has found that a positive outlook on life helps a person resist colds. On the other hand, people in bad marriages or unemployed are much more likely to catch cold due to stress.

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A summary of this research was published in the February APA Monitor.

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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