Projet ARC BParent

Parental burnout and its consequences for children: Towards an integrated and multilevel approach (Acronym: BParent) (2019-2024)

Promotors: Isabelle Roskam (spokesperson), Alexandre Heeren, Isabelle Aujoulat, Aurore François, Moïra Mikolajczak

One may wonder whether a cultural system that has placed the best interests of children at the center of its priorities could generate situations of great vulnerability for some of them. This is the very core question of the current research project. It is rooted in two 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 role and duties of parents who are expected to provide support and warmth, avoid harsh punishment and coercion, and develop the child’s potential. The “good parental” role has been translated into a series of duties associated with competences 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, may lead to detrimental downstream cascade of consequences for children, such as neglect and violence. However, uncertainty still abounds regarding the exact mechanisms whereby those phenomena interact. As a consequence, the current project aims at clarifying how a system  promoting children’s well-being may foster such downstream harmful parental pressure, which, in turn, ultimately yields deleterious consequences for those whom it sought to protect. In order 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 survey, laboratory studies, qualitative participatory research, and ecological sampling methods exploring parent-child interactions, which will be 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 combining face validity and international Delphi consensus approaches. In sum, this interdisciplinary and fundamental research project addresses novel and timely issues with far-reaching implications, ultimately setting up the scene for new research horizons in the field of parental burnout.