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Parenting stress as a mediator between mental health consultation and children’s behavior


Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMC) focuses on enhancing adults’ (e.g., parents) skills and abilities in order to improve children’s behavior. Limited research has examined parenting factors as mechanisms of change, which is important given the bidirectional nature of parent-child interactions. Parenting stress and its influence on children’s behavioral outcomes (behavior problems and protective factors) were investigated following the implementation of an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) program. Participants included parents that participated in the ECMHC program (n = 247) and a comparison group (n = 72) in the Midwest. Overall, parents in the ECMHC group experienced fewer dysfunctional parent-child interactions and less distress. Results indicated that parent-child dysfunctional interactions mediated the relationship between ECMHC and children’s behavior problems (CI = .001, .038) and protective factors (CI = -.061, -.001). Parental distress did not mediate the relationship between ECMHC and children’s behavior problems (CI = -.001, .016) or protective factors (CI = -.020, .001). Understanding the influence of stress and parent-child interactions is beneficial as these may be malleable and responsive to change if targeted in intervention. Examining mechanisms of change related to parents will allow for refinement of services and improved behavioral outcomes for children. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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