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Three reasons why parental burnout is more prevalent in individualistic countries: a mediation study in 36 countries

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Abstract

Purpose

The prevalence of parental burnout, a condition that has severe consequences for both parents and children, varies dramatically across countries and is highest in Western countries characterized by high individualism.

Method

In this study, we examined the mediators of the relationship between individualism measured at the country level and parental burnout measured at the individual level in 36 countries (16,059 parents).

Results

The results revealed three mediating mechanisms, that is, self-discrepancies between socially prescribed and actual parental selves, high agency and self-directed socialization goals, and low parental task sharing, by which individualism leads to an increased risk of burnout among parents.

Conclusion

The results confirm that the three mediators under consideration are all involved, and that mediation was higher for self-discrepancies between socially prescribed and actual parental selves, then parental task sharing, and lastly self-directed socialization goals. The results provide some important indications of how to prevent parental burnout at the societal level in Western countries.

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Availability of data and material

The full protocol, database, and syntaxes are available on OSF https://osf.io/94w7u/?view_only=a6cf12803887476cb5e7f17cfb8b5ca2.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the International Investigation of Parental Burnout (IIPB) Consortium (https://www.burnoutparental.com/international-consortium) for collecting and providing the data on which this study is based.

Funding

IR and MM were supported by a Coordinated Research Grant from the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles in Belgium (ARC Grant n°19/24-100). This fund did not exert any influence or censorship of any kind on the present work.

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Authors

Contributions

Original idea for the study: IR. Study design: IR, MM, and MVP. Data collection: All authors. Data management and data analysis: IR. Writing of the first draft of the paper: IR and MM. The final draft has been read and approved by all co-authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Isabelle Roskam.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests or funding source that could have influenced the data collection, analysis or conclusions. MM and IR have now founded a training institute that delivers training on parental burnout to professionals. The institute did not participate in the funding of this study nor did it influence the process, the results or their interpretation in any manner.

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Roskam, I., Aguiar, J., Akgun, E. et al. Three reasons why parental burnout is more prevalent in individualistic countries: a mediation study in 36 countries. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 59, 681–694 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-023-02487-z

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