Economic Strain Harms Parent-Child RelationshipA new study finds that parents’ financial problems and resulting mental distress affects their relationships with their children.

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, according to the Pew Research Center.

University of Missouri researchers discovered 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 prosocial behaviors, such as volunteering or helping others.

“The study serves as a reminder that children’s behaviors are affected by issues beyond their immediate surroundings,” said study author Gustavo Carlo, Ph.D. “Families’ economic situations are affected by broader factors in our society, and those financial problems can lead to depression that hurts parent-child relationships.”

Research has shown that parent-child connectedness is an important indicator of prosocial behavior in children. Prosocial behaviors lead to moral development, better outcomes in relationships and enhanced performance at work and school.

In this study, middle- to upper-middle-class families were studied. 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.”

Depressed parents are advised to seek treatment from a mental health professional, when possible. Caro also advises parents to seek help from their spouses, families, friends, churches and other community agencies. He recommends parents balance efforts to help themselves with spending quality time with their children.

“Raising kids is tough as it is,” Carlo said. “When you have the added layers of financial difficulty and depression, it makes raising children even more challenging.”

The study was published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence earlier this year.

Source:University of Missouri

Family and child saving money photo by shutterstock.