* Viktor Gecas

October 2, 2008

Financial crisis taxing on families, relationships

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Wall Street's financial woes can affect relationships - both financial and romantic - of people of all ages and incomes, says a Purdue University sociologist.

"Economic stress is one of the major sources of family stress," says Viktor Gecas, professor of sociology and head of the Department of Sociology. "Research shows that this kind of stress can lead to changes in family members and in family dynamics, such as husbands becoming irritable and wives becoming depressed, as well as more extreme problems such as mental health issues, alcoholism, drug abuse and family violence."

Such stress also has ramifications for the entire family, says Gecas, who is an expert on social relationships between family members and couples. Children of all ages may observe changes in their parents' behaviors, and parents in the sandwich generation, those who are financially caring for their children and aging parents, may be stressed more than usual.

In general, financial stress, such as loss of income or a job, aggravates and adds to whatever stresses and problems already exist within families, such as problems associated with parenting, school, child development, or sex and intimacy, he says.

"How people cope with the added stress of economic problems depends on what other resources and options are available to them," Gecas says. "For example, those with higher education have greater intellectual resources that may enable them to get another job if they lose the one they have. Economic downturns may be more difficult for families in the lower classes who were already struggling financially. These families tend to rely more on extended kinship ties to help them in hard times."

While financial stress contributes to family stress and family problems, the consequences are not all negative.

"Crises force us to re-examine our lives and our lifestyles. Some of the things we have been taking for granted, because we can financially afford them, we might be better off not doing," Gecas says. "Downsizing and redirecting our lifestyles might be positive consequences of an economic crisis. So even though an economic crisis hurts, effectively coping with one may make us stronger and more resourceful."

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Viktor Gecas, (765) 494-4667,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Gecas is pronounced ge-chas.

To the News Service home page