Belgium is in the top three countries with the highest number of people suffering from the effects of parental burnout, according to an international study by the Belgian university UCLouvain.
Parental burnout is a complete mental and physical exhaustion as the result of a parent being subjected to excessive stress from parenting for too long without having enough resources to compensate and balance out the stress and affects people in Western countries the most.
“These are people who have completely run out of steam as parents,” professors of psychology Moira Mikolajczak and Isabelle Roskam (UC Louvain), who conducted the study across 42 countries, told De Morgen.
In Belgium, one in 12 Belgian parents is suffering from this type of burnout, and according to the research published on Thursday, the country’s “individualistic performance culture” is one of the biggest influences on this, more so than socioeconomic factors.
“Sometimes they just flee into their work. Biological analyses show that they have more stress hormones in their bodies than patients with the most severe chronic pain. Unfortunately, that condition increases the risk of neglect and violence,” the researchers said.
The study surveyed around 17,500 parents’ emotional exhaustion, loss of enjoyment in the parental role and emotional distance from the child caused by stress and fatigue.
It showed that cultural differences play the biggest part in explaining the varying results – almost 0% in Peru, Thailand, and Turkey, to almost 8% in Poland and in the US – and based on the cultural factors studies, found that the more individualistic a society is, the more chance there is of parental burn-outs.
“We cultivate performance and perfectionism, and parenting here is also a very solitary affair. In other cultures, neighbours, fellow villagers and other family members look after the children much more. That apparently protects enormously against burnout,” the researchers said.
The research also found that the coronavirus crisis has resulted in this type of burnout increasing in many countries because of the pandemic, however, in Belgium, one-third of the parents scored higher on the criteria for parental burnout during this period.
The Brussels Times