News Release

At-the-moment stress for parents during COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation

New research from the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, The Ohio State University, and San Jose State University finds that during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, parental stress was higher during the workday compared to after the workday and lower during weekends than during weekdays.

Previous research compares parental stress before and during the pandemic, but none has measured it during stay-at-home orders. In this study, scientists assessed how time-varying and day-varying factors are related to parents' level of stress. In specific, stress was examined 3 times a day for 14 days for survey participants in Ohio from April to May 2020.

Specific findings include:

  • Parents reported lower levels of stress when completing an evening survey, but higher levels when they were at work and during weekdays compared to weekends.
  • Being at work (compared to being at home) was related to significantly higher levels of stress among parents.
  • Across all parents, stress levels increased progressively throughout the period, peaking in the last week observed.
  • Having one adult in the home was related to higher stress than two adults.
  • The number of children under 18, biological sex of the child, and parent's education were not related to at-the-moment stress for parents.
  • COVID-19 milestone dates were unrelated to stress levels.

Says study co-author, Dr. Paul Gruenewald, "Parents need respite in the form of childcare and child-only activities to reduce stress -- especially during the work week when they are juggling employment and their children's schooling. Providing parents with skills and tools to identify and reduce stress may be one way of helping parents cope with extremely difficult situations."

Source: Freisthler, Bridget, Paul J. Gruenewald, Erin Tebben, Karla Shockley McCarthy, and Jennifer Price Wolf. "Understanding At-the-Moment Stress for Parents during COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Restrictions." Social Science & Medicine (2021): 114025.


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