Parenting stress and parent support among mothers with high and low education

J Fam Psychol. 2015 Dec;29(6):907-18. doi: 10.1037/fam0000129. Epub 2015 Jul 20.

Abstract

Current theorizing and evidence suggest that parenting stress might be greater among parents from both low and high socioeconomic positions (SEP) compared with those from intermediate levels because of material hardship among parents of low SEP and employment demands among parents of high SEP. However, little is known about how this socioeconomic variation in stress relates to the support that parents receive. This study explored whether variation in maternal parenting stress in a population sample was associated with support deficits. To obtain a clearer understanding of support deficits among mothers of high and low education, we distinguished subgroups according to mothers' migrant and single-parent status. Participants were 5,865 mothers from the Growing Up in Scotland Study, who were interviewed when their children were 10 months old. Parenting stress was greater among mothers with either high or low education than among mothers with intermediate education, although it was highest for those with low education. Support deficits accounted for around 50% of higher stress among high- and low-educated groups. Less frequent grandparent contact mediated parenting stress among both high- and low-educated mothers, particularly migrants. Aside from this common feature, different aspects of support were relevant for high- compared with low-educated mothers. For high-educated mothers, reliance on formal childcare and less frequent support from friends mediated higher stress. Among low-educated mothers, smaller grandparent and friend networks and barriers to professional parent support mediated higher stress. Implications of differing support deficits are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Scotland
  • Single Parent / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology