Parenting stress and its correlates in an infant mental health unit: a cross-sectional study

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Background: An infant’s development is closely linked to the relationship they have with their parents. Parenting stress, affective disorder, and an upbringing with substance-abusing parents can affect parenting quality and increase the risk of children developing behavioral, mental and social problems. The overall aim of the study was to investigate how parents of children attending an outpatient Infant Mental Health (IMH) unit rate their own psychological health and parenting stress, and to explore predictors of parenting stress. Methods: The sample comprised 197 parents, 129 mothers and 68 fathers, referred with their infant/toddler to an outpatient IMH unit for interplay treatment. On admission, the parents completed self-report questionnaires concerning their own mental health problems and parenting stress. Results: The mothers reported significantly more psychiatric symptoms and parenting stress than the fathers. Fathers with substance-abusing parents had often experienced divorce in the family of origin, had a low level of education, and had often experienced trauma. Depression was a predictor for parenting stress for both mothers and fathers. Conclusion: The parents’ situation was strained, presenting a variety of psychiatric symptoms and high levels of parenting stress, making assessment of parental health before starting treatment important. The mothers’ situations were more serious compared with the fathers’, and for both parents depression was a significant predictor for parenting stress. To increase the chances of a positive treatment outcome for the child, both parents should be included in the treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-39
JournalNordic Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date2019 Sept 25
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychiatry
  • Pediatrics

Free keywords

  • gender
  • Infant mental health
  • parenting stress
  • postnatal affective disorder


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