of Parental Burnout
A first study (Principal Investigators (PIs): Profs. Isabelle Roskam & Moïra Mikolajczak, UCLouvain, Belgium) conducted in 2018-2019 in 42 countries aimed to understand parental fulfillment and burnout around the world. Specifically, the research objectives were to test the construct validity, prevalence, and cross-cultural variation of parent burnout in different cultures around the world.
A second study (PI: Hedwig Van Bakel, Tilburg University, The Netherlands), conducted in 2020 in 26 countries, aimed to assess the prevalence of parental burnout under specific stressful circumstances, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, and the relation between parental burnout and both individual circumstances and governmental health measures in the different participating countries.
What we have learned from the results of these two studies is that:
the prevalence of parental burnout greatly varies from country to country (Roskam et al., 2021);
a significant proportion of the variance in parental burnout is due to cultural factors (Roskam et al., 2021; van Bakel et al., 2022);
there is not a universal culture of parenting but rather different parenting cultures with different features of the ideal parent model (Lin et al., 2022);
the prevalence of parental burnout is higher in individualistic countries (even when controlling for the influence of sociodemographic characteristics, socioeconomic background, and other cultural values) (Roskam et al., 2021);
mothers raising their children in the most gender-equal countries report higher parental burnout (even when controlling for the influence of sociodemographic characteristics, socioeconomic background, and cultural values) (Roskam et al., 2022);
the link between individualism measured at the country level and parental burnout measured at the individual level is mediated by higher discrepancies between current and ideal parental selves in individualistic countries, less sharing of parental tasks and responsibilities, and higher agency socialization goals (Roskam et al., in press);
in most countries, the prevalence of parental burnout was higher during than before the pandemic (van Bakel et al., 2022);
this increase in prevalence during the pandemic was higher in countries low in indulgence (with stricter norms regarding parenting roles and duties) even when controlling for the influence of factors related to governmental measures, and individual and family factors (van Bakel et al., 2022).
Current Research Activities of the IIPB
Even though the prevalence of parental burnout is lower in less individualistic countries, it is far from being null. And all the studies about the consequences of parental burnout, whichever the country in which they were conducted, indicate that burnout is a worrying condition that needs to be addressed in all cultures. The state of the art suggests that prevention and care measures need to be considered at both the individual (e.g., evidence-based treatment) and cultural/societal levels (e.g., prevention and social policies). As shown in a recent meta-analysis (Mikolajczak et al., in press), research at the individual level is growing significantly in many countries. Research at the cultural/societal level however requires a collective effort which can be achieved via the IIPB consortium. This collective effort could lead to evidence-based prevention perspectives and policy recommendations.
A third two-part study is currently in progress.
IThe first quantitative part (PIs: Profs. Isabelle Roskam & Moïra Mikolajczak, UCLouvain, Belgium) consists in deepening our knowledge of the various mediators and their role in the relation between cultural values and other country-level factors on the one hand, and parental burnout at the individual level and its consequences on the other hand. Knowledge of these mechanisms is indeed necessary to determine how values and factors at the macro-level translate into individual beliefs and behaviours that increase the risk of parental burnout, a condition having severe consequences.
The second qualitative part (PI: Prof. Tholène Sodi, University of Limpopo, South Africa), consists in exploring other potential not yet considered symptoms and cultural processes that could be of particular importance to understand parental burnout.
A better understanding of the mechanisms by which culture affects parents and children to some extent, will enable the development of targeted preventive measures in different parts of the world. Some prevention measures may be universal while others may be culture-specific.