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Caregiver Strain, Social Support, and Mental Health Service Use Among Urban African American Mothers

Abstract

Caregiver strain and social support have been identified as both facilitators and deterrents to parental mental health service use on behalf of their children. This study focused on the relationship between caregiver strain, social support, and mental health service use among African American mothers of children at-risk or meeting criteria for a disruptive behavioral disorder and living in urban communities of concentrated poverty. Mothers (n = 89), participating in a five-year NIMH funded study of school-based community mental health services, completed measures at baseline of caregiver strain and both perceived and received social support. Service use was calculated as the sum total of services (sessions) received. Associations between caregiver strain and service use were examined, and perceived and received social support were explored as potential moderators. Baseline covariates included child’s age, gender, symptom severity, and maternal employment status. Findings highlighted child symptom severity as the strongest predictor of caregiver strain and perceived social support as moderating the association between caregiver strain and service use. Mothers were more likely to utilize services when experiencing relatively high levels of perceived support or high caregiver strain but not both, highlighting the importance of their interrelationship. Received support did not moderate the association between strain and service use. In addition, mothers utilized services more often for sons than daughters and when unemployed. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Highlights

  • Mothers reporting high caregiver strain or high perceived social support, but not both, were more likely to use services.

  • Received support did not moderate the association between strain and service use.

  • Mothers were more likely to receive services for their sons than their daughters.

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Funding

Funding for this study was made possible by a grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Mental Health, R01MH073749 (Marc Atkins)

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Correspondence to Ané M. Maríñez-Lora.

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Maríñez-Lora, A.M., Cua, G., Frazier, S.L. et al. Caregiver Strain, Social Support, and Mental Health Service Use Among Urban African American Mothers. J Child Fam Stud 30, 1633–1649 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01964-w

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Keywords

  • Caregiver strain
  • Perceived social support
  • Mental health service use
  • African American mothers
  • Urban poverty