The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting families and children worldwide. Experiencing the pandemic leads to stress in families resulting from fear of infection and social isolation derived from social distancing. For families raising preschoolers, the prolonged closure of childcare centers puts additional childcare burden on family members, especially mothers. Due to the limited research exploring the impact of COVID-19 on preschool children’s problem behaviors, this study examines the association between stress due to COVID-19 and preschool children’s internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors related to mother’s depression and parenting behavior. The study sample included data collected from 316 South Korean mothers raising preschool-aged children aged 3 to 5. The study findings suggest that mother’s COVID-19 stress was indirectly associated with preschool children’s internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors resulting from the mother’s depression and parenting behaviors, although the direct effect of COVID-19 stress on preschool children’s outcomes was not statistically significant. Increase in mother’s COVID-19 stress was associated with increase in depression, and sequentially decreased positive parenting behaviors, which in turn resulted in preschool children’s internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors. The study findings highlight the need to focus on enhancing mental health of mothers and preschool children’s adjustment by implementing supportive interventions to reduce the adverse impacts of the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the 2020 Research Fund of Myongji University, Seoul, South Korea.
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.
- COVID-19 mother
- Externalizing problem behavior
- Internalizing problem behavior
- Parenting behavior