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Parenting stress, maternal depression and child mental health in a Melbourne cohort before and during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Galbally, M.ORCID: 0000-0003-3909-1918, Watson, S.J.ORCID: 0000-0001-7228-3490, Lewis, A.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-2519-7976 and van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2022) Parenting stress, maternal depression and child mental health in a Melbourne cohort before and during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health . Early View.

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This paper aims to examine the maternal and child mental health and parenting outcomes in the context of COVID-19 pandemic conditions using a sample from Melbourne, Australia – a city exposed to one of the longest lockdowns world-wide in response to the pandemic.


This study utilises observational data from a prospective, pregnancy cohort, Mercy Pregnancy Emotional Wellbeing Study and includes 468 women and their children followed up in Melbourne to 3–4 years postpartum pre-COVID pandemic and compared to those followed up during the COVID-19 pandemic.


When compared to mothers followed up at 3–4 years postpartum pre-pandemic, those followed up during the COVID-19 pandemic showed higher depressive symptoms with a steep incline in their symptom trajectory (EMMdifference = 1.72, Bonferroni-corrected P < 0.01, d = 0.35) and had a three times higher risk of scoring 13 or above on the EPDS (aRR = 3.22, Bonferroni-corrected P < 0.01). Although this increase was not associated with the variation in the duration of exposure to pandemic conditions, the steep increase in depressive symptoms was more pronounced in those with pre-existing depressive disorders. There was no difference in parenting stress or adjusted childhood mental health symptoms or disorder.


Our findings highlight the vulnerability of those with pre-existing clinical mental health disorders and the need for adequate clinical care for this vulnerable group. Equally, our study indicates the possibility that parenting and early childhood mental health outcomes, at least in the short term, may be resilient.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Health Futures Institute
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Paediatrics and Child Health Division
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
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