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As parents, there are two different mindsets: there are some that teach their kids that the world is inherently a good place, with a few bad seeds spread out throughout the land, and then there are parents who take the stance that teaching their kids that no one can be trusted is the best way to go. Regardless of which side of the coin you may fall on, new research asserts that leaning towards the world being an inherently bad place is likely to destroy your child’s well-being.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, asserts that when we are teaching our children that the world is a bad place, it isn’t protecting them in the way that is intended. Viewing the world as a dangerous place is a negative ‘primal world belief’ and with it comes a whole list of mental health problems.

According to Psychology Today, 11-53% of parents lean towards teaching their kids that the world is a bad place.

“Primal world beliefs are not beliefs about accidental world qualities, such as ‘the world is composed of 118 chemical elements.’ Instead, they are beliefs about the world’s most basic and psychologically important characteristics — like how dangerous it is, how fun it is, how stable it is, and so forth,” explains Jeremy Clifton, the lead author of the study.

There are 3 categories of Primal World Beliefs:

1. The world is a safe place. (Determines how much of a threat we view the world.)

2. The world is an enticing place. (Determines how interesting, beautiful, and meaningful we view the world.)

3. The world is alive. (Determines whether people view the world as a place where things happen because of the combined efforts of everyone.)

“Those of us who see the world as dangerous, dull, and mechanistic are stuck in a place they hate their whole lives,” Clifton explains. “The downstream effects on behavior and well-being are potentially enormous.”

It was Clifton’s goal to study the associations between primal world beliefs and various life outcomes, including job success, job satisfaction, depression, life satisfaction, and overall flourishing.

What they found was that having a negative primal world belief was rarely associated with a better outcome. On the contrary, having a negative world belief predicted less success, less life/job satisfaction, worse health, more negative emotion, and more depression.

“We found that people want to pass on a lot of different primal world beliefs to their kids, including the belief that the world is dangerous, and it is against them—and that may be a terrible parenting idea,” Clifton says.

Additionally, Clifton notes that people who believe the world is a terrible place typically believe that wholeheartedly. He did offer some advice, that I, for one, am going to take to heart, “My advice for anyone interested in primal world beliefs and how they might be impacting their life or the life of their kids is to first find out what your primals are. The first step to getting out of prison is to recognize you’re in prison.”