The COVID‐19 lockdown and psychological distress among Italian parents: Influence of parental role, parent personality, and child difficulties

Cristina Mazza, Daniela Marchetti, Eleonora Ricci, Lilybeth Fontanesi, Serena Di Giandomenico, Maria Cristina Verrocchio, Paolo Roma
Published Online:
16 Mar 2021

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The Italian lockdown following the spread of COVID‐19 exposed residents to a long and unexpected period of managing offspring at home. Throughout this time, most parents continued to work remotely. The present research aimed at assessing multiple sociodemographic and psychological variables for parental well‐being during the lockdown. An online survey was administered from 6 to 11 April 2020. Respondents were 917 parents aged 23–67 years with up to six children, aged 3–13 years. The measures employed were: 14 demographic questions, the Big Five Inventory (BFI‐10), the Emotional Symptoms and Hyperactivity‐Inattention subscales of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ‐P), and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ‐12). Multiple moderated linear regression analyses were performed. Motherhood, higher levels of education, higher neuroticism, lower extroversion, and more child emotional and hyperactivity‐inattention symptoms were found to be significant predictors of parent distress. Furthermore, a significant two‐way interaction between child emotional problems and parent extroversion was found. Overall, parents showed high rates of psychological distress, signalling severe difficulties during the lockdown. Families with a child suffering from emotional and behavioural difficulties should immediately be detected by social services to activate support interventions to prevent chronic and amplified manifestations of these problems.

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