Parents, your children could be affected by your burnout

Washington: Parenting comes with a responsibility and is surely not an easy task. When the daily stress of parenting becomes chronic, it can turn into parental burnout, intense exhaustion that leads parents to feel detached from their children and unsure of their parenting abilities, reveals a study. According to the study published in the journal — Clinical Psychological Science — this type of burnout can lead to harmful outcomes for both parent and child, increasing parental neglect, harm, and thoughts about escape.

“In the current cultural context, there is a lot of pressure on parents. But being a perfect parent is impossible and attempting to be one can lead to exhaustion. Our research suggests that whatever allows parents to recharge their batteries, to avoid exhaustion, is good for children,” said Moira Mikolajczak, lead researcher of UCLouvain.

The surveys included a 22-item measure of parental burnout that gauged parents’ emotional exhaustion, emotional distancing, and feelings of inefficacy; a six-item measure that gauged their thoughts about escaping their family; a 17-item measure that gauged the degree to which they neglected their children’s physical, educational and emotional needs; and a 15-item measure that gauged their tendency to engage in verbal, physical, or psychological violence. Participants’ data revealed a strong association between burnout and the three variables — escape ideation, parental neglect, and parental violence — at each of three-time points.

Parental burnout at the first and second survey was associated with later parental neglect, parental violence, and escape ideation. The researchers found that parental burnout and parental neglect had a circular relationship: Parental burnout led to increased parental neglect, which led to increased burnout, and so on.

Importantly, all of these patterns held even when the researchers took participants’ tendency toward socially desirable responding into account. A second online study with mostly English-speaking parents in the UK produced similar findings. Together, the data suggest that parental burnout is likely the cause of escape ideation, parental neglect, and parental violence.