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COVID-19 Employment Status, Dyadic Family Relationships, and Child Psychological Well-Being

Authors:

Abstract

Purpose: COVID-19 has led to soaring unemployment rates and the widespread adoption of working-from-home (WFH) arrangements that have disrupted family relationships and adolescent psychological well-being. This longitudinal study investigated how parental employment status (i.e., job loss and WFH) influenced adolescents' daily affect indirectly through family functioning (i.e., parent-adolescent conflict and parental warmth) and whether these links varied by family's socioeconomic status. Methods: Daily-diary approaches were used to collect dyadic parent-adolescent data from a nationwide American sample (6,524 daily assessments from 447 parent-adolescent dyads; 45% black, 36% white, 10% Latinx, 7% Asian American, 2% Native American) over the course of 15 consecutive days at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results: Parents who experienced job loss demonstrated increases in parent-child conflict, which in turn predicted decreases in child positive affect and increases in child negative affect. Furthermore, parents' WFH status predicted increases in parental warmth, which in turn predicted increases in child positive affect and decreases in child negative affect. Parents of low-income families were more likely to experience job loss (24% vs. 13%) and less likely to WFH (44% vs. 73%) than middle-high income parents. Conclusions: Adolescents from families facing economic hardship and employment shifts during COVID-19 experienced changes in parent-child relational dynamics that influenced their emotional well-being. Recognizing these shifts in family ecology is critical to health providers' ability to screen for mental health, assess existing family supports, and provide timely, targeted information about stress management and contending with family conflict.
Original article
COVID-19 Employment Status, Dyadic Family Relationships, and
Child Psychological Well-Being
Ming-Te Wang, Ed.D.
a
,
*
, Daphne A. Henry, Ph.D.
b
, Juan Del Toro, Ph.D.
a
,
1
,
Christina L. Scanlon, Ph.D.
a
,
1
, and Jacqueline D. Schall, M.S.
a
,
1
a
Learning Research & Development Center, Department of Psychology, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
b
Department of Counseling, Developmental & Educational Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Article history: Received March 24, 2021; Accepted July 14, 2021
Keywords: COVID-19; Employment status; Family relationship; Psychological well-being; Socioeconomic status
ABSTRACT
Purpose: COVID-19 has led to soaring unemployment rates and the widespread adoption of
working-from-home (WFH) arrangements that have disrupted family relationships and adolescent
psychological well-being. This longitudinal study investigated how parental employment status
(i.e., job loss and WFH) inuenced adolescentsdaily affect indirectly through family functioning
(i.e., parent-adolescent conict and parental warmth) and whether these links varied by familys
socioeconomic status.
Methods: Daily-diary approaches were used to collect dyadic parent-adolescent data from a
nationwide American sample (6,524 daily assessments from 447 parent-adolescent dyads; 45%
black, 36% white, 10% Latinx, 7% Asian American, 2% Native American) over the course of 15
consecutive days at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results: Parents who experienced job loss demonstrated increases in parent-child conict, which
in turn predicted decreases in child positive affect and increases in child negative affect.
Furthermore, parentsWFH status predicted increases in parental warmth, which in turn predicted
increases in child positive affect and decreases in child negative affect. Parents of low-income
families were more likely to experience job loss (24% vs. 13%) and less likely to WFH (44% vs.
73%) than middle-high income parents.
Conclusions: Adolescents from families facing economic hardship and employment shifts during
COVID-19 experienced changes in parent-child relational dynamics that inuenced their emotional
well-being. Recognizing these shifts in family ecology is critical to health providersability to
screen for mental health, assess existing family supports, and provide timely, targeted information
about stress management and contending with family conict.
Ó2021 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. All rights reserved.
IMPLICATIONS AND
CONTRIBUTION
COVID-19 has upended
the economic landscape
in the United States
through widespread job
loss and rapid transitions
to working from home.
These results suggest that
working-from-home ar-
rangements help parents
foster warm relationships
with their children that in
turn reduce negative
affect and promote posi-
tive affect.
This work was supported by Spencer Foundation (#201600067).
Conicts of interest: The authors have no conicts of interest to disclose.
Data availability statement/Data deposition: The data sets generated and/or
analyzed during the present study are not publicly available, but they are
available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Contributors statement: Wangconceptualized and designedthe study,drafted the
introduction, method, and result sections, and reviewed/revised the manuscript.
Henry drafted the discussionsection and reviewed/revised the manuscript. Del Toro
conducted data analysis and critically reviewed the manuscript for important
intellectual content. Scanlon and Schall coordinated and supervised data collection
instruments, collected data, drafted the literature review, and reviewed/revised the
manuscript. All authors approvedthe nal manuscriptas submitted and agree to be
accountable for all aspects of the work.
*Address correspondence to: Ming-Te Wang, Ed.D., University of Pittsburgh,
5948 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, 230 South Bouquet St., Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
E-mail address: mtwang@pitt.edu (M.-T. Wang).
1
These authors contributed equally and share the last authorship.
www.jahonline.org
1054-139X/Ó2021 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. All rights reserved.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.07.016
Journal of Adolescent Health xxx (2021) 1e8
COVID-19 has resulted in shifts in parental employment that
have negatively impacted family relationships [1] and individual
psychological well-being [2], especially for those contending with
poverty or economic uncertainty [3,4]. While many American
parents have experienced job loss during COVID-19, others have
shifted to temporary work-from-home (WFH) arrangements.
Researchers have examined predictors and implications of these
employment changes [5]; however, it remains unclear whether
and how parent-adolescent relationships have been impacted by
job loss and WFH during the pandemic. Furthermore, we do not
understand how these relationships may inuence adolescents
psychological well-being under circumstances where youth are
facing unprecedented and unforeseen threats to their mental
health [6]. As such, this longitudinal study examines the relation
between COVID-19 employment status, family relationships, and
adolescent affect.
To build on existing work addressing family ecological
vulnerabilities [7], we dene resilience as the capacity of a
dynamic system to adapt successfully to disturbances that
threaten system function, viability, or development[8]. We assert
that pandemic-related changes in parentsemployment status
shape family inter-relations that in turn inuence individual
family memberspsychological resilience and well-being. Specif-
ically, we hypothesized that job loss and WFH status inuence
parent-child relationships, including parent-adolescent conict
and parental warmth. In turn, we expected these changes in family
relationshipstobelinkedtochildrens daily affect.
COVID-19 has upended the economic landscape in the United
States through widespread job loss and rapid transitions to WFH
arrangements. WFH requires parents to simultaneously be a
productive employee, dedicated parent, and, in the case that
their children participate in virtual learning, teachers assistant.
Changes to COVID-19 employment circumstances have also
occurred in conjunction with social disruption as a result of
public health measures. Accordingly, job loss and changing work
schedules may stress family routines and put signicant strain on
family relationships [2,4,9]. During these times of unrest, parents
are more likely to exhibit low warmth and experience height-
ened conict with their children [1,10]. Such contentious parent-
child relationships place adolescents at risk for elevated negative
affect [11], whereas parental warmth may buffer against negative
affect while also promoting positive affect [12].
While the extant literature is clear on the consequences of job
loss on family stress, less is known about sudden shifts to WFH
arrangements. Although remote schooling, shifting household
demands, and elevated concerns over childrensadjustmentmay
have increased parenting responsibilities and put pressure on
WFH parents [1,4,5], WFH may have also offered the opportunity
for increased parental warmth through expanded family time and
reduced work-family conict [13,14]. In fact, the increased exi-
bility of WFH arrangements has been associated with improved
work-family balance [13 ] and increases in available time to spend
with family [14]. Few studies, however, have examined the direct
effects of job loss and WFH on parental warmth. In sum, parental
employment status during the pandemic is of critical import
owing to consequences for family interpersonal dynamics and
adolescentspsychological well-being [2,4,7].
The impact of parental employment status on parent-
adolescent relationships and adolescentspsychological well-
being may vary by the familys socioeconomic status [7]. Family
economic stability has been shown to buffer the negative impact
of job loss on family relationships [3], and parents who WFH may
have more resources to mitigate family stress caused by COVID-
19 [13]. Low-income families, unfortunately, may suffer the most
pervasive nancial consequences of shelter-in-place policies, as
wage-earners in these families tend to work jobs that are not
amenable to WFH (e.g., essential workers) [3]. Owing to demands
on time and limited resources, low-income parents are more
likely to experience parent-child conict and may also struggle
to maintain warm, supportive relationships with their children
[10]. Combined, economic vulnerabilities may place low-income
families at a greater risk for household contention and
maladaptive adjustment. However, studies have shown that the
presence of conict does not necessarily imply the absence of
warmth. Even in circumstances of poverty, parental warmth has
been shown to mitigate the negative impact of economic strain
on youth well-being [15]; ergo, it is critical to understand how
job loss and WFH impact family relationships across different
socioeconomic backgrounds and how those family relationships
in turn impact adolescent well-being.
The present study
To understand whether and how parental employment status
has affected parent-child relationships and adolescentsemotional
well-being during the pandemic, we used dyadic parent-
adolescent daily-diary data with 9,372 assessments to examine
the mediating role of family relationships (i.e., parent-adolescent
conict and parental warmth) in the link between employment
status (i.e., job loss, WFH) and adolescentsemotional well-being
(i.e., positive and negative affect). We also investigated whether
the link between employment status, family relationships, and
adolescentsaffect varied by familieseconomic circumstances.
Daily-diary approaches provide a rich perspective into partici-
pantsreal-time daily experiences and behaviors, thereby mini-
mizing systematic recall bias and permitting in-depth analysis of
within-person processes over time [16].
Because extant literature has suggested that the stress of
COVID-19 employment status is expected to increase conict
between family members, we hypothesized that job loss would
be associated with increased family conict, which in turn would
predict decreased positive affect and increased negative affect in
adolescents. Conversely, there may be decreased warmth within
the family as it convalesces and adapts to new ecological cir-
cumstances. Owing to a dearth in literature surrounding this
topic, we propose no specic hypotheses regarding the relations
between WFH and parental warmth aside from expecting
warmth to be associated with increased positive and decreased
negative affect of adolescents.
Methods
Participants
Participants included 447 parent-child dyads from an ongoing
nationwide longitudinal study examining school experiences,
family dynamics, and adolescent well-being in the United States.
The original study worked with a research company to recruit a
national sample of parents and adolescents (i.e., middle- and
high-school-aged) by using a representative, random sampling
method. When COVID-19 was declared a national emergency in
the United States in March 2020, the original longitudinal study
M.-T. Wang et al. / Journal of Adolescent Health xxx (2021) 1e82
was leveraged by inviting a subsample of parent (i.e., primary
caregiver) and adolescent participants to engage in a 15-day
daily-diary study focusing on family functioning and adjust-
ment during the pandemic. Because of the prevalence and
saliency of unemployment rates and adoption of WFH arrange-
ments in states with stay-at-home orders, participation required
residence in a state where stay-at-home orders mandated
schools and nonessential businesses to close.
Approximately 79% of the qualied participants from the
original study agreed to partake in the daily-diary study. The nal
sample included 447 parents and their adolescent children from
38 states (parent/primary caregiver sample: M
age
¼43.7, range ¼
27e52 years; child sample: M
age
¼15.0; range ¼12e18 years;
see Table 1 for demographic information). This subsample did
not differ from the original sample regarding sociodemographic
characteristics or psychological adjustment, but there were some
geographic differences. The subsample had slightly more par-
ticipants from the Northeast and South regions (vs. West and
Midwest) as compared with the original study sample (see
Table 1). The higher number of participants from Northeast and
South regions was attributed to the fact that these states
implemented stay-at-home orders at the time of the study.
Procedures
All consented parents and children rst completed baseline
and demographic measures one week before the daily survey
period. Both parents and children then completed daily survey
assessments between 5:00
P
.
M
. and 12:00
A
.
M
. using Internet-
capable devices across 15 consecutive days from May 18 to
June 1, 2020. Participants received two to four email or SMS re-
minders each day to complete the daily survey. Research staff
contacted any participants who missed a diary entry to trou-
bleshoot any issues with accessing the survey. Participants
received $40 for completing the baseline survey and daily-diary
entries. All materials and procedures were approved by the au-
thorsuniversity institutional review board.
Measures
Parental employment status. We measured job loss and WFH as
two indicators of employment status during COVID-19. All parent
respondents were employed before COVID-19. Parents were
asked whether they had lost their job since the COVID-19
outbreak (0 ¼no,1¼yes). Parents who remained employed
were asked whether they worked from home during the COVID-
19 outbreak (0 ¼no,1¼yes). None of the parent respondents
worked from home before the pandemic. Those with another
adult in the household were asked to report on that adults
employment status as well.
Daily child affect. Adolescentspositive and negative affect were
measured daily using the Positive and Negative Affect Scale for
Children, a well-validated psychological scale [17]. We assessed
positive affect with four items (i.e., grateful, energetic, happy,
hopeful) and negative affect with seven items (i.e., sad, anxious,
depressed, hopeless, nervous, lonely, scared). Participants
reported their mood during the past 24 hours on a 5-point scale
ranging from 1 (not at all)to5(extremely). To generate appro-
priate reliability to detect change [18], items were averaged to
form daily composite scores of positive (R
C
¼.70) and negative
affect (R
C
¼.75).
Daily family relationship. For both parents and children, family
dynamics and functioning were measured on a 5-point Likert
scale using the Network of Relationship Inventory, a well-
validated and widely-used scale (1 ¼not at all,5¼a lot)[19].
We focused on parent and child reports of parent-child conict (4
items; e.g., Today, I experienced conict or tension with my child/
parent; I was yelled at by my parent) as well as parent and child
reports of parental warmth (4 items; e.g., Today, I did something
fun or relaxing with my child/parent; I felt supported by my parent).
Given that the correlations between child and parent reports
ranged from moderate to high, a mean composite score for each
dimension was calculated by summing the item scores of parent
and child reports and dividing the total by the number of items
(Parent-child conict: R
C
¼.87; parental warmth: R
C
¼.73).
Family Socioeconomic Status. An income-to-needs ratio was
calculated by dividing the familys total income by the federal
poverty threshold adjusted for family size. This ratio estimates
family income in a widely-used, valid, and reliable metric that
uses poverty as its critical referent [20,21]. To designate low- and
middle-high income families, an indicator was set to one if the
income-to-needs ratio was less than 2.0 (i.e., designating low-
income families) and was set to 0 if the ratio was equal to or
greater than 2.0 (i.e., designating middle-higheincome families).
Covariates. Because of their associations with family relation-
ships and well-being, we accounted for several covariates. We
included the numerical day of reporting (1e15), weekend (0 ¼
weekday,1¼weekend), and parent daily psychological distress
(item from parent report using the Psychological Distress Scale;
e.g., I feel stressed out today) as time-level covariates. Six person-
level covariates were also collected from child or parent reports:
(1) child age, (2) child sex (0 ¼girls,1¼boys), (3) child race, (4)
parent race, (5) parent role (0 ¼mothers,1¼fathers), and (6)
prepandemic parent-child relationship (2 items from parent
report using the Network of Relationship Inventory; e.g., Overall I
get along with my kid).
Analytic plan
This study examined whether family relational dynamics
mediate the association between parental employment status
Table 1
Demographic information for children and parent participants
Child participant Parent participant
Age
Mean (SD) 15.09 (1.66) 43.66 (6.86)
Range 13e18 27e52
Sex
% Males 39.1 13.0
Race
% Black/African American 44.8 46.1
% White/European American 35.6 38.7
% Latinx 9.8 8.5
% Asian/Asian American 7.4 6.3
% Native American 2.4 0.4
Family socioeconomic status
% Low income 62.0 62.0
Region in the United States
% Northeast 58.0 58.0
% South 24.6 24.6
% Midwest 10.3 10.3
% West 7.1 7.1
M.-T. Wang et al. / Journal of Adolescent Health xxx (2021) 1e83
and child daily affect using longitudinal multilevel modeling in
Mplus with daily observations (level 1) nested within partici-
pants (level 2). The outcomes of interest were childrens positive
and negative affect at level 1. The mediators were parent-child
conict and parental warmth at level 1. The key predictors
were job loss and WFH at level 2. We rst tested main and
mediation effects and then investigated whether these effects
varied by family socioeconomic status (SES). For the mediation
analysis, we used the Model Constraintcommand to estimate
indirect effects (i.e., a*b) using main effects for a(i.e., inde-
pendent variable /mediator) and b(i.e., mediator /
dependent variable) paths. For our moderation analysis, we
performed multigroup chi-square test comparisons to examine
whether we could constrain the paths for each SES groups model
to be equivalent without causing a signicant decrement in
model t. All level 1 predictors were person-mean centered. All
analyses were controlled for level 1 and 2 covariates. The intra-
class correlation of the outcome variables justied the use of a
multilevel modeling approach, as 60%e70% of each outcomes
variance was at the person level relative to the 30%e40% at the
daily level.
Missing data
The amount of missing data at both the daily and person
levels was relatively low. Of the possible 6,705 daily-diary as-
sessments (15 days, 447 children and parents), there was only
6.6% (n¼441) and 5.2% (n¼350) missing data at the daily level
for children and parents, respectively. There were varying levels
of missing data at the family level: 100% of families (i.e., both
parent and child) completed the baseline and demographic
surveys; 62% of children and 72% of parents did not miss any
daily-diary entries; 28% of children and 21% of parents missed
one or two daily entries; and 6% of children and 4% of parents
missed 3e4 daily entries. On average, both children and parents
each completed 14 of 15 daily-diary entries.
Littles missing completely at random test suggested that the
data were missing completely at random,
c
2
(20) ¼31.10, p¼ns.
An examination of missing data patterns indicated that adoles-
cents or parents with complete data did not differ from those
with missing data on key constructs or demographic character-
istics. To retain all participants in analyses, we accounted for
missing data through full-information maximum likelihood
estimation.
Results
Table 2 presents means, standard deviations, and correlations
among all study constructs. Table 3 presents the mean differ-
ences by family socioeconomic status. Notably, parents of low-
income families were more likely to experience job loss (24%
vs. 13%) and less likely to WFH (44% vs. 73%) than middle-high
income parents during COVID-19. In addition, low-income fam-
ilies tended to experience more parent-child conict and less
parental warmth than middle-high income families.
Direct effect of employment status on family relationship
As shown in Table 4, parental job loss predicted increases in
parent-child conict (B¼.15, SE ¼.07, p<.05, 95% condence
interval [CI] [.01, .29], ES ¼.12). In addition, WFH predicted
increases in parental warmth (B¼.23, SE ¼.08, p<.01, 95% CI
[.07, .38], ES ¼.15).
Direct effect of family relationship on child affect
Parent-child conict predicted increases in childrens nega-
tive affect (B¼.14, SE ¼.02, p<.001, 95% CI [.09, .18], ES ¼.14)
and decreases in childrens positive affect (B¼.16, SE ¼.02,
p<.001, 95% CI [.20, .11], ES ¼.11; see Table 4). Moreover,
parental warmth predicted increases in positive affect (B¼.15,
SE ¼.02, p<.001, 95% CI [.11, .18], ES ¼.17) and decreases in
negative affect for children (B¼.04, SE ¼.01, p<.001, 95% CI
[.06, .02], ES ¼.07).
Mediation effect of family relationship on the link between
employment status and child affect
As shown in Table 5, parents who experienced job loss
demonstrated increases in parent-child conict, which in turn
predicted decreases in child positive affect (indirect effect:
B¼.02, SE ¼.01, p<.05, 95% CI [.04, .01]) and increases in
child negative affect (indirect effect: B¼.02, SE ¼.01, p<.05, 95%
CI [.01, .5]). Furthermore, parentsWFH status predicted in-
creases in parental warmth, which in turn predicted increases in
child positive affect (indirect effect: B¼.04, SE ¼.01, p<.01, 95%
CI [.01, .07]) and decreases in child negative affect (indirect effect:
B¼.01, SE ¼.00, p<.05, 95% CI [.02, .01]). The model t the
data well,
c
2
(6) ¼80.93, p<.001, RMSEA ¼.05, CFI ¼.93,
SRMR
within
¼.01, SRMR
between
¼.04.
Moderation effect of socioeconomic status differences
Although the means of our key constructs varied by family
SES, family SES did not moderate the links between these con-
structs,
c
2
(12) ¼8.82, p¼ns.
Discussion
COVID-19 precipitated unparalleled social and economic
disruptions in family life, exacting an especially heavy toll on
low-income families [3]. Because of soaring unemployment rates
and rapid, widespread transitions to WFH arrangements, it is
imperative to understand how parentsemployment status
during the pandemic has inuenced family relationships and
childrens emotional well-being. Using 15 consecutive days of
dyadic parent-adolescent data, we found that parental
employment changes (i.e., job loss and WFH) inuenced family
relationships (i.e., parent-adolescent conict and parental
warmth), and family relationships were connected to adoles-
centsdaily positive and negative affect. Family relationships also
mediated longitudinal links between parentsemployment sta-
tus and daily affect among adolescents. These ndings not only
highlight family factors shaping adolescentsaffective states but
they also reveal psychosocial consequences of parental job loss
and WFH arrangements during COVID-19.
Our results suggest that family stress processes may underlie
associations between parental job loss and curtailed family
functioning. Indeed, numerous studies have indicated that
heightened economic pressure incites parental distress that fo-
ments harsh parenting and increased antagonism between par-
ents and children [9,22,23]. For example, recent work has
indicated that parents who experience COVID-related job losses
M.-T. Wang et al. / Journal of Adolescent Health xxx (2021) 1e84
were nearly ve times more likely to psychologically abuse their
children [24]. Family economic stress related to job loss also
imperils the family system by stimulating coercive family
relations [25,26].
Unlike job loss, we found that WFH was connected to
increased parental warmth. It is likely that WFH helped parents
to minimize COVID-19 infection risks and supervise children
themselves during school closures, thereby alleviating the
stress of grappling with alternative childcare arrangements or
being unable to monitor children during remote schooling.
Additional protective factors related to WFH (e.g., nancial
stability, job security, professional autonomy, schedule exi-
bility) may have buffered parents against psychological distress
and allowed them to avoid decompensating parenting behav-
iors [27,28]. Some parents have even reported nding
emotional respite in spending more time with their children
during the pandemic [29]. Despite the stress of integrating
family and professional life resultant from unexpected transi-
tions to WFH, such working arrangements may confer
protection and contribute to family resiliency via the opportu-
nity for increased warmth and togetherness.
Consistent links between family relationships and adoles-
centsemotional well-being also emerged in our analyses. Family
systems research emphasizes the importance of nurturing and
supportive parenting for youths affective states [30,31]. Parent-
adolescent conict has been shown to decrease adolescentsuse
of parental social supports in times of crisis, ultimately deterio-
rating relationship quality and posing negative consequences for
adolescents emotional well-being [25,32]. High, stable parental
warmth may therefore act as an efcacious protective factor
against negative affect and distress arising from family stressors
(e.g., parental job loss) [1,33].
Although family economic status did not moderate the direct
effects of parental employment status or the mediation effects of
family relationships on adolescent affect, our ndings nonethe-
less have major implications for economically disadvantaged
families. In our sample, low-income families were 67% less likely
to enter WFH arrangements and twice as likely to experience job
Table 2
Descriptive statistics and zero-order bivariate correlations among key constructs
Variable 1234567Mean (S.D.)
Within-Person
1 Day 1 8.00 (4.32)
2 Weekend .28** 1 .26 (.44)
3 Child positive affect .03*.01 1 3.24 (1.05)
4 Child negative affect .04** .01 .18** 1 1.56 (.75)
5 Parent-child conict .08** .03** .06*.37** 1 1.36 (.61)
6 Parental warmth .05*.05** .53** .15** .04** 1 2.97 (1.04)
7 Parent psychological distress .03*.03*.13** .32** .23** .09** 1 1.49 (.65)
Between-Person 1234567891011
1 Low-income family 1 .62
2 Parent lost job .10** 1 .20
3 Parent work from home .34** .32** 1 .58
4 Childs age .12** .10** .10** 1 15.09 (1.66)
5 Male child versus female child .01 .09** .02 .18** 1 .39
6 Black child versus white child .34** .02 .16** .14** .03*1 .45
7 Other race child versus white child .06** .09** .11** .04** .09** .47** 1 .22
8 Father versus mother .04** .08** .04** .10** .02 .08** .12** 1 .13
9 Black parent versus white parent .36** .01 .18** .13** .03** .89** .32** .02 1 .46
10 Other race parent versus White parent .09** .09** .11** .05** .07** .33** .70** .04** .42** 1 .17
11 Prior parent-child relationship .06** .03*.09** .10** .07** .14** .07** .01 .12** .09** 1 4.22 (.91)
*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.
Table 3
Mean group differences by family income
Key variable Low-income household
62% of analytic sample
Middle-high income household
38% of analytic sample
Independent samples t-tests/
c
2
test comparisons
Child positive affect 3.24 (1.08) 3.22 (1.01) t (5,468) ¼.73, p¼ns
Child negative affect 1.55 (.78) 1.56 (.70) t (5,692) ¼.60, p¼ns
Parent-child conict 1.39 (.65) 1.32 (.53) t (6,073) ¼4.66, p<.001
Parental warmth 2.95 (1.08) 3.00 (.97) t (5,767) ¼2.12, p<.05
Parent psychological distress 1.52 (.70) 1.45 (.57) t (6,140) ¼4.73, p<.001
% Parent lost job 23.90 12.70
c
2
(1) ¼95.53, p<.001
% Parent work from home 44.00 73.40
c
2
(1) ¼26.19, p<.001
Childs age 14.93 (1.64) 15.34 (1.66) t(447) ¼2.56, p<.05
% Male child versus female child 38.80 39.80
c
2
(1) ¼.04, p¼ns
% Black child versus white child 57.60 22.80
c
2
(1) ¼51.83, p<.001
% Other race child versus white child 19.90 25.10
c
2
(1) ¼1.68, p¼ns
% Father versus mother 11.80 14.40
c
2
(1) ¼.64, p¼ns
% Black parent versus white parent 60.00 23.60
c
2
(1) ¼57.35 p<.001
% Other race parent versus white parent 14.30 21.30
c
2
(1) ¼3.71, p¼ns
Prepandemic parent-child relationship 4.16 (.96) 4.33 (.82) t(402) ¼2.04, p<.05
M.-T. Wang et al. / Journal of Adolescent Health xxx (2021) 1e85
loss than families with more economic resources. Our results also
show that levels of parent-adolescent conict were higher
among low-income families. Low-income families are more
likely to work in hourly and essential service sector jobs, and
during the pandemic, these families were more vulnerable to
layoffs and furloughs and less likely to WFH as compared with
ofce-based, white-collar roles [3,34]. Furthermore, many
economically disadvantaged parents who escaped job loss dur-
ing the pandemic worked in essential roles (i.e., essential
workers) that required them to place themselves at risk for
COVID-19 infection. These contextual hardships can quickly
accumulate in ways that undermine family functioning and
emotional well-being [2,4,9,35]: As job loss foments negative
family relationships and WFH fosters parental warmth,
economically disadvantaged families confront more contextual
adversities and less access to protective factors.
Limitations
This work is a rst step into understanding family dynamics
and adolescent emotional well-being within the context of a
pandemic-related economic crisis. Although this longitudinal
study highlights the key role family relationships play in linking
COVID-19s economic impacts to adolescentsemotions, these
data were collected during the nascent stages of the pandemic.
As family well-being may change over the course of the
pandemic, future studies should investigate whether and how
our ndings persist, attenuate, or strengthen over time. In
addition, researchers should focus on increasing generalizability
by using more racially proportionate, geographically diverse
samples, as our nationwide sample was not representative of the
national population, nor could these results be applied to youth
from states where stay-at-home orders were not enacted.
Because the daily-diary assessment occurred once per day for
15 days, future studies should consider collecting information
about the within-day sequencing of events over a longer period
of time. In addition, we did not use multidimensional or clinical
scales to measure family dynamics or psychological adjustment
as a means of minimizing daily participant burden.
As is the case in all nonexperimental research, we cannot
rmly establish causal relationships among the patterns of
associations observed in this study, nor can we denitively
attribute changes in childrens emotional states to parent-child
relational dynamics. Childrens characteristics and parenting
are often reciprocally related. Analyzing extensive longitudinal
data collected over an extended period of time in a cross-lagged
Table 5
Direct and indirect effects of family employment status and family relationship on child affect
Predictors Child positive affect outcome Child negative affect outcome
Parent lost job Parent-child conict as the
mediator
Parental warmth as the
mediator
Parent-child conict as
the mediator
Parental warmth as the
mediator
B (SE) 95% CI B (SE) 95% CI B (SE) 95% CI B (SE) 95% CI
Parent lost job /Mediator .15 (.07)*.01, .29 .05 (.11) .16, .26 - - - -
Mediator /child affect .16 (.02)*** .20, .11 .15 (.02)*** .11, .18 .14 (.02)*** .09, .18 .04 (.01)*** .06, .02
Parent lost job /child affect .09 (.10) .29, .10 - - .28 (.09)** .11, .46 - -
Parent lost job /mediator /Outcome .02 (.01)*.04, .01 .01 (.02) .03, .05 .02 (.01)*.01, .05 .00 (.01) .01, .01
Parent lost job /child affect .06 (.11) .28, .16 - - .39 (.10)*** .20, .59 - -
Parent works from home (WFH)
WFH /mediator .09 (.05) .01, .19 .23 (.08)** .07, .38 - - - -
Mediator /outcome .16 (.02)*** .20, .11 .15 (.02)*** .11, .18 .14 (.02)*** .09, .18 .04 (.01)*** .06, .02
WFH /outcome .06 (.07) .08, .21 - - .01 (.06) .13, .10 - -
WFH /mediator /outcome .01 (.01) .03, .01 .04 (.01)** .01, .07 .01 (.01) .01, .03 .01 (.00)*.02, .01
WFH /outcome .23 (.09)*.04, .41 - - .02 (.07) .11, .15 - -
*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.
Table 4
Direct effect of family employment status and family relationship on child affect
Predictor Child positive affect Child negative affect Parent-child conict Parental warmth
Within person
Day .01 (.00)** .01 (.01)
Weekend .02 (.02) .01 (.01)
Parent-child conict .16 (.02)*** .15 (.02)***
Parental warmth .15 (.02)*** .04 (.01)***
Between person
Low-income family .04 (.08) .06 (.06) .10 (.05)*.03 (.08)
Lost job .11 (.10) .37 (.10)*** .15 (.07)*.04 (.11)
Work from home .06 (.07) .04 (.06) .09 (.05) .23 (.08)**
Child age .02 (.02) .05 (.02)** .01 (.02) .07 (.02)**
Child boy versus girl .01 (.07) .19 (.06)** .02 (.05) .09 (.07)
Black child versus white child .12 (.21) .20 (.16) .02 (.10) .27 (.18)
Other race child versus white child .04 (.16) .13 (.11) .07 (.06) .06 (.13)
Father versus mother .03 (.10) .03 (.10) .05 (.05) .04 (.10)
Black parent versus white parent .34 (.21) .03 (.15) .02 (.09) .23 (.17)
Other race parent versus white parent .05 (.16) .03 (.11) .01 (.08) .27 (.15)
Prior parent-child relationship .02 (.05) .02 (.05) .14 (.04)*** .37 (.05)***
*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.
M.-T. Wang et al. / Journal of Adolescent Health xxx (2021) 1e86
panel framework could yield additional insights about the di-
rection of effects. Relatedly, we cannot rule out the possibility
that other parental characteristics (e.g., parenting style)
contributed to family processes. Future research may benet
from assessing other dimensions of family relationships or
parental characteristics as potential moderators or mediators
and using prepandemic comparison data to determine differ-
ences in prepandemic and peripandemic parenting. Researchers
interested in continuing this line of inquiry should also incor-
porate clinical evaluations to explore adolescentspsychological
well-being during COVID-19 more thoroughly.
Using multiinformant daily-diary data with a racially and
socioeconomically diverse U.S. sample, this study showed that
COVID-19s effect on parental employment status shaped family
processes which in turn inuenced adolescent emotional
adjustment. With emerging evidence showing increased mental
health issues among U.S. adolescents during COVID-19 [36], the
need for research that identies key risk and protective factors
for youth well-being persists. The American Academy of Pedi-
atrics policy guidance emphasizes the central role pediatricians
play in promoting childrens socioemotional health, and re-
searchers and policy makers continue to advocate for mental
health screening and referrals in schools [37,38]. Clinicians and
schools can screen youth for signs of psychological distress and
support parents by providing information about best practices
for managing stress, dealing with family conict, and meeting
their childrens emotional needs.
More broadly, a multipronged policy response is needed to
address the negative societal impacts fueled by COVID-19 [39]:
At-risk families need substantive nancial and health supports
that stabilize income for parents who lost their jobs and increase
access to school and community-based socioemotional supports.
Although exible and remote work options are not feasible for all
working parents, public policies and workplace benets that
buoy parental well-being, such as paid time off, livable wages,
and adequate health care, may improve the qualitydif not the
quantitydof parentstime with their children, thereby
enhancing adolescent emotional well-being [40]. By focusing on
macrostructural factors and family-level processes, policy
makers and practitioners can promote adolescentswell-being,
even in the face of a pandemic.
Supplementary Data
Supplementary data related to this article can be found at
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.07.016.
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The COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and childcare centers across the U.S., forcing many parents to care for children at home. While parents generally enjoy time with children and want more “family time,” evidence also suggests that substantial, unanticipated increases in parenting time may negatively impact at least some mothers’ well-being. We investigate this possibility using surveys (N=139) and in-depth interviews (N=65) with mothers of young children in Southern Indiana conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic (April-May 2020). We find that mothers who have greatly increased the time they spend caring for their children also disproportionately report increased stress, anxiety, and frustrations with their children. Our qualitative data reveal that disruptions in childcare arrangements, particularly when coupled with intensive work pressures and/or intensive parenting norms, exacerbate the negative impact of increased parenting time on mothers’ well-being. Meanwhile, other mothers are not experiencing increased parenting time as a substantial source of stress, and some are even experiencing increased parenting time as a source of joy in otherwise difficult times. We discuss the implications of these findings for research on parenting and its impact on women’s health and labor force participation, as well as for policies to support families during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Background: Job loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic presents significant risk for child abuse. Protective factors, such as reframing coping, may mitigate the risk of job loss on child maltreatment. Objective: The current study investigated factors associated with child maltreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, including parental job loss, and whether cognitive reframing moderated associations between job loss and child maltreatment. Method: A community sample of 342 parents (62% mothers) of 4- to 10-year-olds (M = 7.38, SD = 2.01; 57.3% male) living in the United States completed online questionnaires regarding experiences with COVID-19, the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale, and the Family Crisis Oriented Personal Evaluation Scales. Results: Two logistic regression analyses evaluated predictors of whether parents psychologically maltreated or physically abused their children during the pandemic controlling for maltreating history, parental depressive symptoms, financial stability, parent age, parent gender, child age, and child gender. Parents who lost their jobs (OR = 4.86, 95% CI [1.19, 19.91], p = .03), were more depressed (OR = 1.05, 95% CI [1.02, 1.08], p < .01), and previously psychologically maltreated their children (OR = 111.94, 95% CI [28.54, 439.01], p < .001) were more likely to psychologically maltreat during the pandemic. Regarding physical abuse, a significant interaction between job loss and reframing coping emerged (OR = 0.76, 95% CI [0.59, 0.99], p = .04). Among parents who lost their jobs, the probability of physical abuse decreased as reframing coping increased. Conclusions: Job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant risk factor for child maltreatment. Reframing coping may be an important buffer of this association on physical abuse and presents implications for maltreatment prevention.
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Background: Stress and compromised parenting often place children at risk of abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment has generally been viewed as a highly individualistic problem by focusing on stressors and parenting behaviors that impact individual families. However, because of the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), families across the world are experiencing a new range of stressors that threaten their health, safety, and economic well-being. Objective: This study examined the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to parental perceived stress and child abuse potential. Participants and setting: Participants included parents (N = 183) with a child under the age of 18 years in the western United States. Method: Tests of group differences and hierarchical multiple regression analyses were employed to assess the relationships among demographic characteristics, COVID-19 risk factors, mental health risk factors, protective factors, parental perceived stress, and child abuse potential. Results: Greater COVID-19 related stressors and high anxiety and depressive symptoms are associated with higher parental perceived stress. Receipt of financial assistance and high anxiety and depressive symptoms are associated with higher child abuse potential. Conversely, greater parental support and perceived control during the pandemic are associated with lower perceived stress and child abuse potential. Results also indicate racial and ethnic differences in COVID-19 related stressors, but not in mental health risk, protective factors, perceived stress, or child abuse potential. Conclusion: Findings suggest that although families experience elevated stressors from COVID-19, providing parental support and increasing perceived control may be promising intervention targets.
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Background and objectives: The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 has changed American society in ways that are difficult to capture in a timely manner. With this study, we take advantage of daily survey data collected before and after the crisis started to investigate the hypothesis that the crisis has worsened parents' and children's psychological well-being. We also examine the extent of crisis-related hardships and evaluate the hypothesis that the accumulation of hardships will be associated with parent and child psychological well-being. Methods: Daily survey data were collected between February 20 and April 27, 2020, from hourly service workers with a young child (aged 2-7) in a large US city (N = 8222 person-days from 645 individuals). A subsample completed a one-time survey about the effects of the crisis fielded between March 23 and April 26 (subsample n = 561). Results: Ordered probit models revealed that the frequency of parent-reported daily negative mood increased significantly since the start of the crisis. Many families have experienced hardships during the crisis, including job loss, income loss, caregiving burden, and illness. Both parents' and children's well-being in the postcrisis period was strongly associated with the number of crisis-related hardships that the family experienced. Conclusions: Consistent with our hypotheses, in families that have experienced multiple hardships related to the coronavirus disease 2019 crisis, both parents' and children's mental health is worse. As the crisis continues to unfold, pediatricians should screen for mental health, with particular attention to children whose families are especially vulnerable to economic and disease aspects of the crisis.