Destined for Greatness: A Family-Based Stress Management Intervention for African-American Mothers and their Children

Soc Sci Med. 2021 Jul;280:114058. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114058. Epub 2021 May 21.


Rationale: African-American mothers in the U.S. experience high rates of stress, placing them at risk for depression, anxiety, and preterm births, and their children at risk for poor social-emotional development later in childhood. Yet, few studies have developed and tested family-based interventions that target optimal management of stress in this population.

Objective: The current mixed methods study examined whether a six-week family-based intervention (e.g., cognitive behavioral stress management intervention component for mothers and mindfulness-based kindness curriculum for their children) was effective in improving psychosocial outcomes among low-income African-American mothers and increasing prosocial behaviors in their children.

Method: Seventy-two mothers (28% pregnant, 72% postpartum) completed pre- and post-intervention assessments of stress, depression, anxiety, and self-efficacy for stress management. Prosocial behaviors for 38 of their children (3-10 years of age) were also assessed via mother's self-report and two observational child assessments of sharing and helping behaviors. Qualitative interviews at post-intervention and reunion focus groups (up to two years later) were also conducted.

Results: Mothers showed significant reductions in perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and anxiety, as well as improved self-efficacy for stress management at post-intervention. Although observational assessments of children's sharing and helping behaviors did not change, mothers' qualitative responses indicated improvements in their child's prosocial behaviors at home. Qualitative responses also revealed unique stressors that mothers experienced, the short- and long-term impact of these interventions on mothers and their children, and program recommendations.

Conclusions: These results support the efficacy of family-based stress management interventions in this at-risk population.

Keywords: African-American; Children; Family-based intervention; Intersectionality; Mixed methods; Mothers; Prosocial behaviors; Stress management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Black or African American*
  • Child
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers*