Gustavo Carlo of the University of Missouri, Laura Padilla-Walker and Randal Day, both of Brigham Young University, studied how parents' financial problems and resulting mental distress affect their relationships with their children.
The study, published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, found that parents who experience financial problems and depression are less likely to feel connected to their children, and their children are less likely to engage in pro-social behaviors, such as volunteering or helping others.
Carlo said the Pew Research Center found a majority of Americans rate their current financial situation as poor or fair, and nearly half of Americans say they have encountered financial problems in the past year.
"The study serves as a reminder that children's behaviors are affected by issues beyond their immediate surroundings," Carlo said in a statement. "Families' economic situations are affected by broader factors in our society, and those financial problems can lead to depression that hurts parent-child relationships."
For the study, parents and children answered questions about economic stress, depression and connectedness between parents and children. A year later, the children reported how often they engaged in pro social behaviors toward strangers, family members and friends.
"Even middle-class families are having financial difficulties, and it's affecting their ability to be effective parents," Carlo said. "When parents are depressed, it affects their relationships with their kids."