Who suffered most? Parental stress and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany
Keywords:COVID-19, parenting stress, gender inequality, mental health, psychological distress, Germany, children
Objective: This study examines gender and socioeconomic inequalities in parental psychological wellbeing (parenting stress and psychological distress) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany.
Background: The dramatic shift of childcare and schooling responsibility from formal institutions to private households during the pandemic has put families under enormous stress and raised concerns about caregivers' health and wellbeing. Despite the overwhelming media attention to families’ wellbeing, to date limited research has examined parenting stress and parental psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in Germany.
Method: We analyzed four waves of panel data (N= 1,771) from an opt-in online survey, which was conducted between March 2020 and April 2021. Multivariable OLS regressions were used to estimate variations in the pandemic's effects on parenting stress and psychological distress by various demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.
Results: Overall, levels of parenting stress and psychological distress increased during the pandemic. During the first and third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers, parents with children younger than 11 years, parents with two or more children, parents working from home as well as parents with financial insecurity experienced higher parenting stress than other sociodemographic groups. Moreover, women, respondents with lower incomes, single parents, and parents with younger children experienced higher levels of psychological distress than other groups.
Conclusion: Gender and socioeconomic inequalities in parents' psychological wellbeing increased among the study participants during the pandemic.
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