Association of Parental Mental Health with Youth Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Comparison between 2018 and 2020 in Chongqing, China
Background: Maladjustment, categorized as internalizing and externalizing behaviors, is a process whereby an adolescent is unable to satisfy the psychological needs successfully. Youth behavioral problems may strengthen during the COVID-19 pandemic that put individuals through many mental health difficulties. The objectives of this study are to (1) examine the difference of youth behavioral problems between before and during the pandemic; (2) to investigate the association of parental mental health changes with youth behavioral problems during COVID-19; (3) to identify the predictors of parental mental health changes during the COVID-19. Methods: This study used the data from Wave 8 and Wave 10 of the China sample in the Parenting Across Cultures project. The study sample included 115 families in Chongqing, China. Linear mixed-effects models and Full Information Maximum Likelihood estimation were performed. Results: Adolescents experienced a significant increase in internalizing behaviors during COVID-19 (p = 0.002). The COVID-19 disruption brought a 0.20 increment in youth internalizing behaviors. Paternal mental health was significantly associated with youth internalizing behaviors (p = 0.020) and externalizing behaviors (p = 0.034). Youth’s gender, socioeconomic status, family structure, and family mental wellbeing significantly predicted parental mental health changes during COVID-19. Conclusions: As the first longitudinal study in China measuring the changes in youth behavioral problems before and during COVID-19, this study stressed the impact of COVID-19 disruption on the increment of youth internalizing behaviors between 2018 and 2020 in China. The results have important policy implications for adolescents-oriented mental health prevention and mitigation during COVID-19.
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