Predictive models of maternal harsh parenting during COVID-19 in China, Italy, and Netherlands

Madelon M.E. Riem*, Paul Lodder, Jing Guo, Michelle Vrielink-Verpaalen, MH (Marinus) van IJzendoorn, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Pietro De Carli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted on family life and may have caused parental distress, which in turn may result in an overreliance on less effective parenting practices. Objective: The aim of the current study was to identify risk and protective factors associated with impaired parenting during the COVID-19 lockdown. Key factors predicting maternal harsh discipline were examined in China, Italy, and the Netherlands, using a cross-validation approach, with a particular focus on the role of allomaternal support from father and grandparents as a protective factor in predicting maternal harshness. Methods: The sample consisted of 900 Dutch, 641 Italian, and 922 Chinese mothers (age M = 36.74, SD = 5.58) who completed an online questionnaire during the lockdown. Results: Although marital conflict and psychopathology were shared risk factors predicting maternal harsh parenting in each of the three countries, cross-validation identified a unique risk factor model for each country. In the Netherlands and China, but not in Italy, work-related stressors were considered risk factors. In China, support from father and grandparents for mothers with a young child were protective factors. Conclusions: Our results indicate that the constellation of factors predicting maternal harshness during COVID-19 is not identical across countries, possibly due to cultural variations in support from fathers and grandparents. This information will be valuable for the identification of at-risk families during pandemics. Our findings show that shared childrearing can buffer against risks for harsh parenting during COVID-19. Hence, adopting approaches to build a pandemic-proof community of care may help at-risk parents during future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number722453
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

FUNDING Information:
This work was supported by the National Social Science Fund of
China (Number: 20VYJ042) to JG and a corona fast-track data
grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
(NWO; 440.20.013) awarded to MR. MB-K was funded by the
European Research Council (ERC AdG) and the Netherlands
Organization for Scientific Research (NWO grant number

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Riem, Lodder, Guo, Vrielink-Verpaalen, van IJzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg and De Carli.


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