12/08/2011 11:37 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2012

Recession Taking Its Toll On America's Family Relationships: Study

The recession isn't only taking a toll on the bottom line of American families. It's also hurting the relationships themselves.

Parents that have faced financial difficulties and depression are more likely to feel disconnected from their children, according to a recent study from a University of Missouri researcher. The study, which focused on middle- and upper-class families, also found that children of parents who have experienced financial distress are less likely to volunteer or help others.

"Even middle-class families are having financial difficulties, and it's affecting their ability to be effective parents," Gustavo Carlo, the author of the study, said in a statement. "When parents are depressed, it affects their relationships with their kids."

The recession has pushed scores U.S. households to the brink and by many measures the recovery may have made things worse. Americans' access to basic needs such as food and shelter, fell to a three year low last month, according to Gallup. At the same time, U.S. median income declined 7 percent last decade, the Wall Street Journal reports. And the annual median wage fell in 2010 for the second year in a row to $26,364.

The economic downturn is taking its toll on children. Twenty-five percent of very young American children are living in poverty, according to Census data released in September. And though working-age Americans are certainly struggling with an unemployment rate that's been elevated for months, the jobs crisis is having an outsize effect on their children, the Economic Policy Institute found.

For some families, the recession hasn't had a negative impact, but it has changed their dynamic. Twenty-nine percent of Americans said the recession has deepened their commitment to their marriage, according to the Survey of Marital Generosity released earlier this year. In addition, the number of dads regularly taking care of kids under age 15, has climbed to 32 percent in 2010 from 26 percent in 2002, according to Census data cited by Bloomberg.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated that the U.S. median income fell to $26,364. The U.S. annual median wage fell to $26,364.