Parenting stress and mental health : evaluating the role of neighborhood social capital

Choi, Jean
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Parenting stress is a risk factor for poor mental health in adulthood. Greater neighborhood social capital (e.g., density of non-profit organizations, voter turnout within one’s neighborhood) may provide resources that can have stress-buffering effects on parental mental health. I examined (a) the associations between parenting stress and depressive and anxiety symptoms, (b) whether these associations vary by gender, and (c) by county-level social capital (Social Capital Index). I used data from the ongoing Colorado Adoption/Twin Study of Lifespan behavioral development and cognitive aging, which included parents aged 28 to 43 (n = 349; M [subscript age]= 34.37 (4.32)). Participants completed measures of demographics, relationships, health, and well-being. I used hierarchical linear regression models to account for non-independence among siblings and geographic location, and controlled for relevant covariates (e.g., demographics, number of children, marital status) and parents’ depressive symptoms when they were adolescents. Higher levels of parenting stress were associated with higher depression and anxiety symptoms for both mothers and fathers; these effects were consistent across levels of social capital. In follow-up analyses, I found significant urban-rural differences such that the negative effect between parenting stress and mental health outcomes was stronger for parents living in more rural contexts. My findings suggest that parenting stress is a risk factor for greater depressive and anxiety symptoms for mothers and fathers, and provide important insights into the protective role of neighborhood-level sources of support.