Original contribution

Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 243-247

First online:

Mothers’ mental distress and parenting practices with infants and toddlers

  • J. A. LeifermanAffiliated withCenter for Pediatric Research, Eastern Virginia Medical School
  • , T. H. OllendickAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Virginia Tech
  • , D. KunkelAffiliated withDepartment of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech
  • , I. C. ChristieAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Virginia Tech

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The purpose of this study was to examine whether maternal mental distress affects parenting practices related to monitoring activities (i.e. daily routines, enrichment activities). The nationally representative sample consisted of 1638 mothers. Maternal mental distress was assessed by the 5-item Mental Health Index (MHI). Logistic regression models were conducted, controlling for covariates (e.g. marital status, education level, etc.). Approximately 14% of the women reported high levels of mental distress and 25% of the women failed to engage in enrichment activities or consistent daily routines with their children. There was a significant adverse relationship between mental distress and routines, with women who were mentally distressed being more likely to not engage in daily routines. There was no significant relationship between mental distress and enrichment activities. Race differentials were evident among these relationships. These findings highlight the prevalence of maternal mental distress and its deleterious effects on select parenting behaviors.

Keywords: Mental distress; parenting; monitoring.