Direct, indirect and buffering effects of support for mothers on children's socio-emotional adjustment

Parkes, A. and Sweeting, H. (2018) Direct, indirect and buffering effects of support for mothers on children's socio-emotional adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(7), pp. 894-903. (doi: 10.1037/fam0000438) (PMID:30091624) (PMCID:PMC6205417)

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Support for mothers may improve children’s socioemotional adjustment, yet few studies have consideredthe benefits of formal support (from health and social work professionals) in addition to social support(from family and friends) or explored the mechanisms. These issues were addressed using a birth cohort(n�2,649) to explore how mothers’ perceptions of social and formal support when children were ages10–22 months predicted trajectories of children’s externalizing and internalizing problems from 58 to122 months. We tested mediating pathways from support to child adjustment via 3 family stressorsmeasured at 46–58 months (maternal distress, economic strain, and dysfunctional parenting) andexamined whether support buffered effects of stressors on child adjustment. Social and formal supportwere simultaneously associated with lower child externalizing and internalizing problem trajectoryintercepts at 90 months but did not predict trajectory slopes. Social support effects were mediated mainlyvia lower maternal distress, which then reduced children’s problems via lower dysfunctional parenting,or more directly. Additional indirect effects involved lower economic strain. Formal support effects weremediated to a lesser extent by reduced dysfunctional parenting. Two buffering effects were found: socialsupport reduced effects of economic strain on internalizing problems, and formal support reduced effectsof dysfunctional parenting on internalizing problems. Findings suggest measures promoting families’social integration should benefit children’s socioemotional adjustment via improved parental psycho-logical and economic resources and by buffering impacts of economic strain. Enhancing access to healthand welfare services through greater awareness and trust should benefit children’s adjustment, viaimproved parenting and by buffering impacts of dysfunctional parenting.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Parkes, Dr Alison and Sweeting, Dr Helen
Authors: Parkes, A., and Sweeting, H.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Journal of Family Psychology
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN (Online):1939-1293
Published Online:09 August 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Family Psychology 32(7): 894-903
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631Social Relationships & Health ImprovementLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
727641Understanding and Improving Health within Settings and OrganisationsKathryn HuntMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/12HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit