Parental burnout and its consequences for children: Towards an integrated and multilevel approach

Acronym: Bparent.. 1


Isabelle Roskam (spokesperson)
Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY, UCLouvain)

Alexandre Heeren
Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY, UCL), Clinical Neuroscience Division (NEUR), Institute of Neuroscience (IoNS, UCLouvain)

Isabelle Aujoulat
Institute of Health and Society (IRSS, UCLouvain)

Aurore François
Institute for the Analysis of Change in Contemporary and Historical Societies (IACS, UCLouvain)

Moïra Mikolajczak
Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY, UCLouvain)

Grant period

2019-2024, project financed by the FWB ARC grant

Objective and summary of the project

One may wonder whether a cultural system that has placed children's best interests at the center of its priorities could generate situations of significant vulnerability for some of them. This is the core question of the current research project. It is rooted in two inter-related observations: (1) the view of the child has evolved over the last century. The child is now viewed as a human subject with multiple rights: education, security, stability, health, well-being, expression, … (2) this evolution has led to a fast-growing expansion of the roles and duties of parents, who are rightly expected to provide support and warmth, avoid harsh punishment and coercion, and support the development of the child’s potential. Yet, the “good parental role” has been translated into a series of duties associated with competencies which, progressively, have objectified it as a full-time job doomed to success or failure. As it is conceptualized and formulated, the parental role is stringent, taxing, and often stressful. In this way, some parents may experience important and chronic stress that may increase the risk of parental burnout, which, in turn, could lead to a detrimental downstream cascade of consequences for children, including neglect and violence. However, uncertainty still abounds regarding the exact mechanisms whereby those phenomena interact. Consequently, the current project aims to clarify how a system promoting the children's well-being may foster such downstream harmful parental pressure, which, in turn, ultimately yields deleterious consequences for those it sought to protect.

To do so, four Work Packages (WPs), involving five disciplines, i.e., Cross-cultural Psychology, History, Public Health, Clinical Psychology, and Health Psychology, are proposed. The WPs bring together complementary backgrounds and methods, i.e. study of archives, quantitative surveys, laboratory studies, qualitative participatory research, and ecological sampling methods exploring parent-child interactions, which are combined to address common questions and achieve common goals. Based on the outputs of the WPs, a multilevel (i.e. historical, social, public health, and psychological) model of the antecedents, consequences, and moderators of parental burnout will be developed.

In sum, this interdisciplinary research project addresses novel and timely issues with far-reaching implications, ultimately setting up the scene for new research horizons, as well as co-constructed and meaningful practice implications, in the field of parental burnout.

Thesis and Publications


Blanchard, M.A. (in preparation). Dissertation: The temporal dynamics of parental burnout and its ever-changing family context.

Dubois, AC. (in preparation). Dissertation: Questioning the lived experience of children exposed to parental burnout.

Lin, G.-X. (2023, in preparation). Tentative reasons of why Western parents are vulnerable to parental burnout [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Louvain (UCLouvain).

Roberti-Lintermans, M. (in preparation). Être de « bons » parents. Les transformations des rôles parentaux et de la régulation de leur exercice (Belgique, 1945-2015).