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Parents In US Burn Out At Higher Rate Than Most Other Countries, Study Finds

Parental burnout is a condition when parents become exhausted and overwhelmed by being primary caregivers. And, while the responsibilities of parenthood are a lot for everyone, parental burnout goes well beyond regular stress. It can even lead to negative parenting outcomes like emotional distance from children, neglect, and sometimes worse outcomes. Recent research suggests that parents in the U.S. may be more likely to feel burnout than parents in other countries.

The research was conducted before the pandemic.

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A survey of 42 countries examined feelings of burnout among parents. Although parenting has become much more complicated since the pandemic, this research was conducted between 2018 and March 2020. This is before the COVID uprooted our lives and changed family dynamics.

The survey looked at many factors.

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The primary focus of the study was a questionnaire that measured emotional exhaustion, emotional distance from their children, and whether they enjoy being a parent. But parents were also asked about their family dynamic and socioeconomic status. However, the biggest factor that predicted burnout was the country the parents lived in.

The results point to a cultural factor.

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Isabelle Roskam, who led the study, noted that "individualism plays a larger role in parental burnout than either economic inequalities across countries, or any other individual and family characteristic examined so far, including the number and age of children and the number of hours spent with them."

The countries with the highest burnout include Belgium (8.1%), the U.S. (7.9%), and Poland (7.7%). All of these countries also have cultures centered on individualism. In contrast, the lowest rate of burnout was found in many South American, African, and Asian cultures, who place a larger emphasis on community over individuals.

The pressure on parents is higher in individualist countries.

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“The current results dovetail with sociologists' observation that parenting norms in Euro-American countries … have become increasingly demanding over the last 50 years, resulting in intensification of parental investment, and growing psychological pressure on parents," the research paper states.

"What parents feed their children, how they discipline them, where they put them to bed, how they play with them: all of these have become politically and morally charged questions… The distinction between what children need and what might enhance their development has disappeared, and anything less than optimal parenting is framed as perilous."

It takes a community to raise a child.

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This research points to the importance of support for parents. It may be time for parents to accept and even embrace that they are not perfect. Social support when parenting is vital. The pressure that society is putting on parents to be perfect is not helping us become better parents.

Roskam’s advice is to “abandon the cult of the perfect parent and gain some perspective on all the parenting advice out there in order to choose what works for you.”

h/t: Science Alert