249 – COVID-19 parental distress and problematic media use of preschool children in China: A moderated serial mediation model

Presentation - ECV2022-249

COVID-19 parental distress and problematic media use of preschool children in China: A moderated serial mediation model

Juan Li, Shanghai Normal University, China (1000513598@smail.shnu.edu.cn)
Yuanyuan Zhai, Shanghai Normal University, China (1050782286@qq.com)
Yanan Zhao, Shanghai Normal University, China (283023340@qq.com)
Li Ye, Shanghai Normal University, China (1739717487@qq.com)
Jingyao Wang, Shanghai Normal University, China (1010550596@qq.com)
Yan Li, Shanghai Normal University, China (liyan@shnu.edu.cn)

Background: In March 2022, a disruptive COVID-19 pandemic occurred in Shanghai, China. The COVID-19 outbreak brought significant impacts on family life. Parents experienced great distress and parenting stress. Meanwhile, the proportion of children overexposed to electronic screens was higher during COVID-19.

Aim: This study examined the relationship between maternal COVID-19 distress and problematic media use of preschool children and its mechanisms of action. Specifically, the study explored the mediating role of parenting stress and instrumental media use in digital parenting between maternal COVID-19 distress and children’s problematic media use and the moderating role of supportive co-parenting.

Method: The survey data was collected through the online survey website, and the participants were parents of young children in Shanghai, China. After excluding the invalid questionnaires, 1357 valid questionnaires were included. In this study, children were aged 3–6 years (Mage = 4.01, SD = 1.06), and there were slightly more girls (714) than boys (643). The questionnaires covered demographic information, maternal COVID-19 distress, problematic media use, parenting stress, and instrumental use of media in digital parenting.

Results: (1) Maternal COVID-19 distress had a positive relationship with problematic media use of children. (2) Parenting stress and instrumental media use in parenting mediated the relationship between maternal COVID-19 distress and children’s problematic media use. Moreover, parenting stress and instrumental media use acted as a serial mediator; that is, maternal distress induced and exacerbated parenting stress that affected instrumental media use, which in turn increased the risk of problematic media use in children. (3) Supportive co-parenting moderated the relationship between maternal COVID-19 distress and parenting stress. Supportive co-parenting buffered the mediating effect of parenting stress on maternal distress and children’s problematic media use and also mitigated the serial mediation effect of parenting stress and instrumental use of media between maternal COVID-19 distress and children’s problematic media use.

Conclusions: The mechanism of maternal COVID-19 distress influencing problematic media use of children during the epidemic crisis in China was comprehensively explored. We found that parenting stress and instrumental media use in parenting mediated maternal COVID-19 distress and children’s problematic media use, and parenting stress and instrumental media use also played a serial mediating role. Supportive co-parenting was a moderator of the positive relationship between COVID-19 maternal distress and parenting stress, and mitigated the effects of COVID-19 maternal distress on parenting stress.

Implications for children and families: The results help parents manage and cope with stress related-COVID-19 and parenting, adopting positive media parenting practices thereby preventing children’s problematic media use.

Implications for practitioners: The findings may provide guidance and support for researchers, social agencies, and policymakers in informing intervention and prevention efforts, which aim to promote parental adaption, and media parenting practices, and address children’s problematic media use during the pandemic in China.

Key words: maternal COVID-19 distress; problematic media use; parenting stress; instrumental media use in parenting; children

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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