, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 61-72

The influence of social class, strain and social support on symptoms of anxiety and depression in mothers of toddlers

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Background: The aim of the study was to identify risk and protective factors for anxiety and depression among mothers of toddlers. Methods: A population-based sample of 921 Norwegian mothers with 18-month-old children completed a questionnaire designed to examine the impact of socioeconomic and demographic factors, somatic health problems, negative life events, chronic strain and social support on symptoms of anxiety and depression (HSCL-25). Results: There was a moderate aversive effect of negative life events and chronic strain and a moderate protective effect of social support on the symptom level, but no interaction effects were found between the risk and protective factors. Behaviour problems among the children clearly seemed to affect the mothers' symptom level. The symptom level varied with background factors like the mothers' education, employment status and age even after controlling for the effect of strain and social support. The largest effect of the background factors seemed to be indirect, however, mediated through their effect on the risk and protective factors. Conclusions: Although problems with the children's behaviour and child care arrangements were observed to have a strong impact on the mothers' symptom level, the frequencies of such problems appeared to be less dependent on socioeconomic conditions than did other types of strain.

Accepted: 21 July 1998