BMC Public Health. 2023 Jan 16;23(1):113. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-14759-5.
BACKGROUND: Parental work stress and impaired mental health seem to have intensified during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Both can have a negative impact on parent-child bonding: psychosocial work stress in the course of a spillover effect from work to family and symptoms of impaired mental health as part of a crossover effect from parent to child. This potentially affects the child’s development in the long term.
METHOD: This cross-sectional study examined the relationship between psychosocial work stress and parent-child bonding during the early COVID-19 pandemic (May-June 2020). Symptoms of depression and aggressiveness were considered as mediators of this relationship. The sample consisted of employees in Eastern Germany (n = 380; 42.9% mothers, 57.1% fathers), aged 24-55 years, with children aged 0-36 months.
RESULTS: In the total sample, an association was only found after adjusting for potential confounders, indicating that higher psychosocial work stress is associated with weaker bonding between the parent and child (β = 0.148, p = .017, 95% CI [0.566, 5.614]). The separate analyses for mothers and fathers did not reveal a statistically significant relationship between psychosocial work stress and parent-child bonding. In the total sample, the higher the psychosocial work stress was, the higher were the parental symptoms of depression (β = 0.372, p < .001, 95% CI [3.417, 5.696]) and aggressiveness β = 0.254, p < .001, 95% CI [1.008, 3.208]). The mental health symptoms in turn were related to weaker parent-child bonding (symptoms of depression β = 0.320, p < .001, 95% CI [0.345, 0.749]; symptoms of aggressiveness β = 0.394, p < .001, 95% CI [0.697, 1.287]). The results furthermore suggested that parental mental health symptoms mediate the association between psychosocial work stress and parent-child bonding (symptoms of depression, ab = 2.491, 95% CI [1.472, 3.577] and of aggressiveness, ab = 2.091, 95% CI [1.147, 3.279]). The mediation effect was also found in the separate analyses for the mothers and fathers.
DISCUSSION: The results of this study during the early COVID-19 pandemic in Germany highlight the importance of prevention as well as intervention measures in relation to psychosocial work stress that may play a debilitating role in the context of family relationships. In addition, the results suggest that both employers and employees should be made aware of the importance of psychosocial work stress, as it can have a negative impact on mental health, which in turn may have a major influence on family relationships.