Home lockdown: Bloom or Boom? Perceived stress as mediator for longitudinal effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on wellbeing of parents and children

Michelle Achterberg, Simone Dobbelaar, Olga Boer, Eveline Crone

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Received date: 9th October 2020

Dealing with COVID-19 lockdown may have negative effects on children. At the same time, the lockdown might facilitate parent-child bonding. Perceived stress may influence the direction of these effects in children and parents. Using a longitudinal design, we investigated how perceived stress influenced COVID-19 lockdown induced changes in wellbeing of parents and children. A total of 106 parents and 151 children (10-13-year-old) filled in questionnaires during lockdown and data were combined with data of previous years. We report a significant increase in parental psychological symptoms and a decrease in parental overreactivity across time. Longitudinal child measures showed a decrease in internalizing and externalizing behavior, which seemed decelerated by the COVID-19 lockdown. Perceived stress was a significant mediator of changes in parental psychological symptoms: Parents who reported more symptoms prior to the lockdown experienced more stress during the lockdown, which in turn was associated with an increase in symptoms. Similar results were found for children’s externalizing behavior. Moreover, perceived stress in children was associated with negative coping strategies, parental overreactivity and parental psychological symptoms. These results suggest that children in families with (a history of) parental psychological symptoms and overreactivity might be at risk for negative consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Read in full at psyRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on a preprint server, which is currently undergoing peer review at Scientific Reports. The findings have yet to be thoroughly evaluated, nor has a decision on ultimate publication been made. Therefore, the results reported should not be considered conclusive, and these findings should not be used to inform clinical practice, or public health policy, or be promoted as verified information.

Scientific Reports

Nature Research, Springer Nature