Parenting Stress, Behaviour, and Parent-Child Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic




Light, Erin

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The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted parents and children leading to increased stress and decreased psychological well-being (Black et al., 2021; Duan et al., 2020; Spinelli et al., 2020). Building on current research, this study aimed to investigate how COVID-19 impacted parenting stress, parent and child well-being, and parent-child communication. Using a two-part mixed-methods design, this study adds to the growing literature examining the deleterious effects the pandemic has had on families. Study 1 aimed to explore the impact of COVID-19 on child worry and parent-child communication, while also investigating the mediating effects of parenting stress and parent worry. In addition, two moderators, namely child age and social support were tested. Participants included 163 parents of children between the ages of 6- to 12-years old across Canada. Although a mediating effect was not found, path analysis results indicated that greater reports of impacts and perceived threat around COVID-19 related to increased parent worry, and increased parental worry related to increased child worry. Additionally, greater parenting stress related to less-open communication. Thematic analysis of parent reports indicated that parents prioritized providing children with information about the pandemic, as well as instructing children on safety behaviours. Study 2 aimed to determine how changes in the pandemic related to changes in child worry and parent-child communication. Participants of Study 2 were 44 parents who also participated in Study 1. Compared to reports in Study 1, parents experienced less perceived threat around COVID-19, but reported no change in parenting stress, parent worry, or COVID-19 impacts. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that the only significant predictors of child worry and parent-child open communication at Time 2 were child worry and parent-child open communication at Time 1, respectively. Taken together, findings from both Study 1 and Study 2 highlight the negative impact the pandemic is having on parent and child well-being, as well as the negative impact of parenting stress on parent-child communication. Additionally, findings indicate that level of distress and openness of communication are relatively stable across the pandemic. Implications of these findings are discussed.



parenting stress, parent worry, child worry, parent-child communication, COVID-19