Title

Mediators of the Association between COVID-19-Related Stressors and Parents’ Psychological Flexibility and Inflexibility: The Roles of Perceived Sleep Quality and Energy

Department

Psychological Sciences

Document Type

Article

Publication Source

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science. Volume 17, Pages 168-176.

Publication Date

2020-07-26

Abstract

Background

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced parents across the United States to quickly transition to a new way of living. These transitions present new stressors, including the stress associated with physical health, with the demands of social distancing placed on families, and with the possibility of losing a job or not being able to pay bills. Such stressors have the potential to disrupt basic functioning, such as sleep and daily energy levels. Furthermore, the impact of stress might have repercussions on parents' capacities to be psychologically flexible, thus putting their psychological functioning at risk. Drawing upon a contextual behavioral science perspective, the current study sought to examine links between COVID-19-related stressors and psychological flexibility/inflexibility through such basic processes as parents’ perceived sleep quality and daily energy level.

Methods

A total of 1003 parents (97% from the US; 74% female; M = 40.9 years old, SD = 8.5) of children (ages 5–18) completed an online survey from the end of March to the end of April of 2020.

Results

Path analyses suggested that, after controlling health-related stress and the stress of work and parenting demands due to the pandemic directly predicting greater inflexibility and lower inflexibility, two mediation paths emerged. Specifically, higher levels of health-related stress were associated with lower levels of energy, which, in turn predicted lower levels of psychological flexibility. In addition, higher levels of health-related stress were associated with lower perceived sleep quality, which, in turn, was associated with higher levels of psychological inflexibility. In secondary analyses on the specific dimensions of flexibility and inflexibility, results suggested that lower energy levels indirectly linked health-related stress to lower levels of all 6 dimensions of flexibility and poorer sleep quality indirectly linked health-related stress to higher levels of self-as-content, fusion, and inaction.

Conclusions

The stressors associated with COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to disrupt parents’ perceived sleep quality and daily energy levels, reducing their abilities to respond to difficult or challenging experiences in a flexible manner and instead promoting more reactive and inflexible responses.

Keywords

COVID-19, stress, sleep, energy, psychological flexibility, psychological inflexibility

DOI

10.1016/j.jcbs.2020.07.001

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