Study: U.S. parental burnout rate among highest globally

Study: U.S. parental burnout rate among highest globally
Rates of parental burnout are highest in the United States and other Western countries that value "individualism" as opposed to a community-based approach to parenting, a new study has found. Photo by TheVirtualDenise/Pixabay

March 18 (UPI) -- Up to 8% of parents in the United States scored high on a test that measures parental burnout, a study published Thursday by the journal Affective Science found.

The United States had among the highest rates of parental burnout of 42 countries included in the analysis, the researchers said.


Only Poland had a similar prevalence of parental burnout, while about 6% of parents in countries such as Canada, France and Russia scored poorly on the assessment used in the study.

Rich, individualistic, Western countries, in which families on average have fewer children, tended to have higher rates of parental burnout, according to the researchers.

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"Our individualistic countries cultivate a cult of performance and perfectionism," study co-author Isabelle Roskam said in a press release.

"Parenthood in these countries is a very solitary activity, unlike in African countries, for example, where the entire village is involved in raising children," said Roskam, a professor of psychological sciences at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

In countries such as Italy, Paraguay, Peru, Turkey and Uruguay, fewer than 1% of parents reported burnout.

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These countries, in which families often have many children, are more collectivist in raising families, which seems to protect against parental burnout, they said.


Conversely, Western values of individualism have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and many families find themselves isolated and cut off from their social relations.

A high level of stress in the family can lead to parental exhaustion, which can have serious consequences for both parents and children, Roskam and her colleagues said.

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For this study, in 2018 and 2019, researchers asked more than 17,400 parents in 42 countries to respond to a questionnaire intended to measure parental burnout.

Seventy-one percent of the study participants were mothers.

The questionnaire assessed four "core symptoms" of parental burnout: emotional exhaustion, contrast with earlier parental self, loss of pleasure in parenting and emotional distancing from children.

For each, the parents were asked to rate their level of agreement with statements such as "I feel completely run down by my role as a parent," "I tell myself I'm no longer the parent I used to be," "I do not enjoy being with my children" and "I am no longer able to show my children that I love them."

The findings suggest that culture, rather than socioeconomic and demographic factors, plays a predominant role in parental burnout, the researchers said.

To address parental burnout, countries need "to revive in our cultures the dimension of sharing and mutual aid among parents within a community," Roskam said.


They should also "abandon the cult of the perfect parent and gain some perspective on all the parenting advice out there to choose what works for you."

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