Change in maternal well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: Did pre-pandemic social support and parenting stress buffer or aggravate mental health disparities among lone and partnered mothers in Germany?




single parents, psychological well-being, life satisfaction, mental health, family structure, COVID-19 pandemic


Objective: Our study aims to examine whether and how pre-pandemic conditions shaped change in well-being among partnered and lone mothers in Germany.

Background: The lives and daily routines of parents changed dramatically because of the pandemic, which affected their mental health. Particularly mothers reported increased psychological distress during the pandemic, which is likely related to the higher load of care responsibilities mothers shouldered to compensate for pandemic-related childcare and school closures. Yet mixed findings emerged on the pandemic’s impact on lone mothers, who were already suffering from poorer mental health compared to partnered mothers.

Method: We use longitudinal data from a probability sample surveyed before and during the pandemic to examine changes in maternal well-being (i.e., subjective psychological well-being and general life satisfaction), and differences between lone and partnered mothers in Germany (N = 3,578; 14.3% lone mothers at baseline).

Results: Socioeconomic status was positively associated with changes in maternal well-being, but no difference emerged between lone and partnered mothers. Although levels of pre-pandemic social support and parenting stress did not affect changes in maternal well-being among partnered mothers, these factors were associated with a less pronounced decline in maternal well-being among lone mothers.

Conclusion: The lack of differences between lone and partnered mothers could be due to implemented institutional safety nets for lone mothers, and increased relationship strain for partnered mothers, during the pandemic.


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Recksiedler, C., Entleitner-Phleps, C., & Langmeyer, A. (2024). Change in maternal well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: Did pre-pandemic social support and parenting stress buffer or aggravate mental health disparities among lone and partnered mothers in Germany?. Journal of Family Research, 36, 85–102.