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16-02-2021 | Uitgave 7/2021

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology 7/2021

Parental Buffering of Stress in the Time of COVID-19: Family-Level Factors May Moderate the Association Between Pandemic-Related Stress and Youth Symptomatology

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology > Uitgave 7/2021
Emily M. Cohodes, Sarah McCauley, Dylan G. Gee
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Nearly all families in the United States were exposed to varying degrees of stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring of 2020. Building on previous research documenting the pernicious effects of stress on youth mental health, we aimed to test the effects of exposure to COVID-19-related stress on youth symptomatology. Further, in light of evidence suggesting that parents play an important role in buffering children from environmental stress, we assessed how specific parental behaviors (i.e., parental emotion socialization, maintenance of home routines, and availability to discuss the pandemic with child) contributed to effective parental buffering of the impact of pandemic-related stress on children’s symptomatology. Conversely, we tested whether parental anxiety-related symptomatology and parenting stress exacerbated the effect of children’s exposure to pandemic-related stress on children’s symptomatology. Results suggest that parents who engaged in relatively higher levels of emotion coaching of children’s negative emotions and who maintained more stable home routines during the pandemic were more effectively able to buffer the effects of pandemic-related stress on children’s symptomatology. Parents who reported higher levels of parenting stress and anxiety-related symptomatology were less likely to effectively buffer stress. Though interpretation of the findings is limited due to sole reliance on parental report and the cross-sectional study design due to the constraints of collecting data during a global pandemic, findings underscore the importance of assessing family-level factors when considering the impact of stressors on children’s symptomatology and highlight the need to support parents during global events that place families under significant stress.

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