We’re all accustomed to the feelings of complete exhaustion and frustration that sometimes result from being a parent. But if we were becoming completely burned out and risking our physical and mental health, would we even recognise it or just shrug it off as “part of being a parent"?


Parental burnout is not often spoken about, but a new study investigating the phenomenon found that it can have quite serious consequences.


A team from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium carried out a study into parental burnout and found it has links to depression, deteriorating health, a risk of addiction, and poorer relationships with children.


The researchers wrote: "Important sociological changes in recent decades have increased pressure on parents to bring up healthy, secure and successful children who will become well-rounded and engaged citizens.”



“Combined with a drastic decrease in stay-at-home mothers, these changes have made parenting both increasingly demanding and increasingly difficult."

The researchers surveyed over 2000 parents, asking them to respond to statements such as: "Through my parental role, I feel that I have a positive influence on my children", "I can no longer show my children how much I love them" and "I'm afraid that my parental role is making me uncaring".


They used questions which cover the three domains of burnout: exhaustion, inefficacy, and emotional distancing.


Professional burnout is characterised by overwhelming exhaustion, a depersonalisation of the beneficiaries of one's work, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. They found that parents suffering from burnout had similar feelings.


The researchers concluded that parental burnout is a genuine phenomenon which is not the same as stress or general burnout. They also found that both mothers and fathers suffered from burnout.



"Although the vast majority of our participants were women - which suggests that women may still be more involved in parenting than fathers - the study confirms that burnout concerns fathers as well," the authors wrote in their study, which was published in Frontiers in Psychology.


The researchers didn’t examine factors that caused parental burnout in this study, but they have several theories about why a parent may be vulnerable to burnout.


Proposed risk factors include a lack of support, the number of children to care for, having children with special needs or illnesses, as well as a poor work/life balance and having no time for themselves.

Parental burnout can affect child/parent relationships, as parents may disengage when they are exhausted.


To avoid burnout, try and leave some time for self-care, eat well, and exercise when you can; ask for help when you are overwhelmed and if you are worried you are becoming burned out, seek help from your GP.