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Background: The use of network analyses in psychology has increasingly gained traction in the last few years. A network perspective views psychological constructs as dynamic systems of interacting elements.
Objective: We present the first study to apply network analyses to examine how the hallmark features of parental burnout — i.e., exhaustion related to the parental role, emotional distancing from children, and a sense of ineffectiveness in the parental role — interact with one another and with maladaptive behaviors related to the partner and the child(ren), when these variables are conceptualized as a network system.
Participants and setting: In a preregistered fashion, we reanalyzed the data from a French-speaking sample (n = 1551; previously published in Mikolajczak, Brianda, Avalosse, & Roskam, 2018), focusing on seven specific variables: the three hallmark parental burnout features, partner conflict, partner estrangement, neglectful behavior toward children, and violent behavior toward children.
Methods: We computed two types of network models, a graphical Gaussian model to examine network structure, potential communities, and influential nodes, and a directed acyclic graph to examine the probabilistic dependencies among the different variables.
Results: Both network models pointed to emotional distance as an especially potent mechanism in activating all other nodes.
Conclusions: These results suggest emotional distance as critical to the maintenance of the parental burnout network and a prime candidate for future interventions, while affirming that network analysis can successfully expose the structure and relationship of variables related to parental burnout and its consequences related to the partner and the child(ren).
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