(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

The difficult economic times the United States and the rest of the world have fallen under has clearly been difficult on people’s wallets, but it has also had a devastating impact on our mental health. Previous reports have called the economic downturn and subsequent recession a “silent mental health epidemic,” and a University of Missouri study has found it is negatively impacting children as well.

Researchers found that parents who are experiencing financial problems and depression are less likely to feel connected to their children; subsequently, these children are less likely to go out of their way to participate in humanitarian activities like volunteering or helping others.

“The study serves as a reminder that children’s behaviors are affected by issues beyond their immediate surroundings,” said researcher Gustavo Carlo. “Families’ economic situations are affected by broader factors in our society, and those financial problems can lead to depression that hurts parent-child relationships.”

For the study, parents and children belonging to middle- to upper-middle-class families answered questions about economic stress, depression and connectedness between parents and children. Then, a year later the children were asked how often they performed what the researchers called “prosocial behaviors.”

Previous studies have found that the less types of these behaviors a child engages in, the worse the outcomes are for their personal relationships, work performance and academic performance.

“Even middle-class families are having financial difficulties, and it’s affecting their ability to be effective parents,” Carlo said. “When parents are depressed, it affects their relationships with their kids. Raising kids is tough as it is. When you have the added layers of financial difficulty and depression, it makes raising children even more challenging.”

Source: University of Missouri

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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