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January 22, 2010

Children can catch stress: Parents who bring home the pressures of work can hamper youngsters' schooling

Parents who push themselves too hard at work may harm their children's chance of success at school.

Children can begin to feel burnt-out at school if their parents are themselves stressed at work (file picture)
Research shows that mothers and fathers with career burnout pass on their feelings of disillusionment at home. Their offspring are more likely to lose interest in schoolwork.

They can begin to worry they are not keeping up with their classmates, become cynical about the value of education and exams and may even start to experience the exhaustion that accompanies burn-out.

The recession may be exacerbating the problem, the study's authors warned.

The researchers, from the Academy of Finland's educational arm, quizzed more than 500 teenagers about whether they had ever experienced burn-out.

Symptoms include tiredness, a sense of inadequacy as a student and cynicism about the value of schooling.

Their parents were asked similar questions about work-related burn-out and a pattern quickly emerged.

The parents worn out physically and emotionally were more likely to have children who meet the same fate over their schoolwork, the European Journal of Developmental Psychology reports.

What is more, burnt-out dads tended to have burnt-out sons and working mothers under pressure had school-age daughters in the same boat.

Researcher Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro said: 'The parent of the same gender seems to serve as a role model for the development of burn-out.'

Family finances were also an important factor. The professor said: 'The greater the family's financial worries, the higher the level of experienced burn-out. This is an important result in view of the potential impact of the ongoing recession on the well-being of families and young people.'

British experts said that rather than youngsters' absorbing their parents' worries, they may simply suffer from lack of attention.

Cary Cooper, professor of health psychology at Lancaster University, said: 'The UK has the longest working hours in Europe. Professionals could be doing between 45 and 55 hours a week.

'They are coming home tired and exhausted and don't spend time reading to their children, talking to them and listening to them.

'And that could be affecting the children's health and their performance.'

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