Perceived stress as mediator for longitudinal effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on wellbeing of parents and children

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Dealing with a COVID-19 lockdown may have negative effects on children, but at the same time might facilitate parent–child bonding. Perceived stress may influence the direction of these effects. Using a longitudinal twin design, we investigated how perceived stress influenced lockdown induced changes in wellbeing of parents and children. A total of 106 parents and 151 children (10–13-year-olds) filled in questionnaires during lockdown and data were combined with data of previous years. We report a significant increase in parental negative feelings (anxiety, depression, hostility and interpersonal sensitivity). Longitudinal child measures showed a gradual decrease in internalizing and externalizing behavior, which seemed decelerated by the COVID-19 lockdown. Changes in parental negative feelings and children’s externalizing behavior were mediated by perceived stress: higher scores prior to the lockdown were related to more stress during the lockdown, which in turn was associated with an increase in parental negative feelings and children’s’ externalizing behavior. Perceived stress in parents and children was associated with negative coping strategies. Additionally, children’s stress levels were influenced by prior and current parental overreactivity. These results suggest that children in families with negative coping strategies and (a history of) parental overreactivity might be at risk for negative consequences of the lockdown.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the participating families for their enthusiastic involvement in the Leiden Consortium on Individual Development (L-CID). We are also grateful to the data-collection and data-processing team, including all current and former students, research assistants, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers for their dedicated and invaluable contributions. Marinus van IJzendoorn, Eveline Crone and Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg designed the L-CID experimental cohort-sequential twin study “Samen Uniek” as part of the Consortium on Individual Development (CID; Gravitation Grant 2013-2023 awarded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, & Science, and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, NWO Grant Number 024.001.003).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


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