La Trobe
1225070_Painter,F_2023.pdf (665.38 kB)

The lived experience of stress for parents in the context of COVID-19–related disruption

Download (665.38 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-10-12, 05:46 authored by Felicity PainterFelicity Painter, Anna BoothAnna Booth, P Letcher, CA Olsson, Jennifer McIntoshJennifer McIntosh
Objective: This mixed methods study sought to explore the lived experience of stress for parents of young dependent children during COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia. Background: Public health restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately burdened parents as they balanced novel and competing role demands. Despite growing research on impacts to parent mental health, much less is known about parenting at the experiential level during this period. Method: Data were derived from free-text survey responses collected during 2020 in an Australian population cohort study and analyzed in a mixed methods approach focusing on descriptive phenomenology. Twenty-eight parent accounts of either ‘extreme’ or ‘minimal’ stress experiences were subject to phenomenological analysis of the individual, interpersonal, and contextual factors associated with each stress category. Results: Three themes defined ‘extreme’ stress experiences: inadequacy of resources to cope, perceived lack of control, and compounding stressors. Two themes characterized ‘minimal’ stress experiences: feeling well resourced to cope and the absence of significant disruption to everyday life. Conclusion: Findings highlight three targets in particular: compounding stressors, family relationships, and gendered differences in parental stress. Implications: Intervention efforts should focus on better resourcing parents experiencing accumulating stressors through provision of individual and relational support and by addressing the higher burden experienced by mothers compared with fathers across pandemic related lockdowns.


Data collection for the Australian Temperament Project Generation 3 Study has been supported by grants from the Australian Research Council (ARC DP130101459;DP160103160; DP180102447) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC APP1082406). Funding for the COVID-19 wave was supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Morgan Stanley, and the Vincent Chiodo Charitable Trust. CO was supported by an NHMRC Investigator Grant(APP1175086). FP was supported by a La Trobe University Graduate Research Training Program Scholarship.


Publication Date



Family Relations






21p. (p. 1511-1531)





Rights Statement

© 2023 The Authors. Family Relations published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Council on Family Relations. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.