Finnish Study Warns of Stress’ Contagious Nature

Stress is something from which many people can benefit in small, occasional doses, revving up their motivation or helping them to be more alert. But scores of people are unable to regulate the amount of stress in their daily lives, and an excess can lead to serious complications from burnout to physical symptoms including ulcers and many issues in between. Stress may also present a threat in families, suggests a new Finnish study conducted at the University of Jyvaskyla. The study examine both parents and their children, and distinguished between those parents who were experiencing stress and burn out at work and those who had a more positive attitude about their jobs.

The study’s results show that parents going through stressful periods at or attitudes about work were far more likely to have children who felt disillusioned about school and who were stressed and unhappy with their performance. One especially interesting piece of data to emerge from the study was the trend in which family members of the same gender appeared to have a more direct stress-affected relationship than those of different genders. As a result, daughters were most affected by mothers who felt stressed at work, and sons showed greater influence through their relationships with their fathers. The researchers noted that an increase in financial worries also contributed to higher rates of stress among children.

The precise way in which stress and burnout are communicated within the home may have an important impact on the link between parents and their children. Further research into whether families who constructively or calmly talk about their issues at work rather than “letting off steam” at home may help researchers understand the precise mechanism through which stress is made contagious.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sandy h

    Sandy h

    January 22nd, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    crazy how things that you would never think turn out to be true- I try to stay away from negative and stressed people for that very reason

  • anna lewis

    anna lewis

    January 22nd, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    i have experienced this first hand…when my little son is getting later for his school bus and i have to get him ready, i often fret and tend to mess things up…

  • Dionne S.

    Dionne S.

    January 22nd, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    You can’t bawl at your boss or have an argument with a co-worker or customer. Adults have always transferred that pent-up anger and frustration to their family when they got home. That’s my experience. It’s wrong and we know it.

  • Hollis

    Hollis

    January 23rd, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    Going through cancer treatments right now so really can’t let myself be roped into the stress and worries of others, but boy is that an easy thing to fall into. I have to closely monitir who I let myself be around for long periods of time because at this stage of mjy life I don’t need anyone else adding anymore stress to that which I am already having to deal hwith of my own. It does just sap the energy right out of you when you have to listen to someone else being such a downer!

  • Yolanda

    Yolanda

    January 23rd, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    Hey Hollis, wishing you all the best. You’re right. That’s the last thing you would need! I do my best to be upbeat even when it’s been a tough day. That helps me get it together. How does that saying go–fake it until you make it. LOL :)

  • Samuel

    Samuel

    January 23rd, 2010 at 11:10 PM

    When a parent comes home angry, it’s impossible to ignore if you’re the spouse or the kid. Walking on eggshells around them would make anybody stressed. We need to be more conscious of separating work and home.

  • luke

    luke

    January 24th, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    I ceratinly agree with this find…if one team member is stressed during whatever work the team is doing, then it upsets and puts a lot of pressure on the entire team…experieneced it first hand!

  • Pauline

    Pauline

    January 25th, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    When friends are needed, only the upbeat and sunny need apply! :-)

  • Katherine

    Katherine

    January 26th, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    You could take one look at my father’s face when he walked in from work and tell what kind of evening lay ahead. He was very guilty of taking it out on us after a bad day. We learned to avoid him when his face was like thunder. Nothing would please him, from whatever had been made for dinner to the TV schedule to his own children.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    January 26th, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Katherine, when I was a kid and came home from school I used to open the front door and practically smell my mother’s mood- and what was in store for me. And I’m not talking about what’s for dinner.

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