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Article

Maternal Psychological Distress and Children’s Internalizing/Externalizing Problems during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Moderating Role Played by Hypermentalization

1
Department of Human and Social Sciences, University of Bergamo, Bergamo 24129, Italy
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Department of History, Society, and Human Studies, University of Salento, 73100 Lecce, Italy
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Lab of Applied Psychology, Department of History, Society, and Human Studies, University of Salento, 73100 Lecce, Italy
4
Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, Università della Svizzera italiana, Via Buffi 13, Lugano 6900, Switzerland
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Stephan Bender and Pasquale Caponnetto
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(19), 10450; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910450
Received: 16 June 2021 / Revised: 19 September 2021 / Accepted: 27 September 2021 / Published: 4 October 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Children's Health)
In order to explore the psychological impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the caregiver–child relationship, we investigated the interplay among COVID-19 exposure and children’s internalizing/externalizing problems during the Italian lockdown, hypothesizing a mediation effect played by maternal distress. Additionally, we included maternal reflective functioning (i.e., hypermentalization) as a moderator factor among this interplay. A total of 305 Italian mothers of children aged 6–13 years (M = 10.3; SD = 2.4) filled in an online survey. Findings revealed an indirect effect of maternal COVID-19 exposure on children’s anxious/depressed (k2 = 0.46) and attention problems (k2 = 0.32) via maternal distress. Hypermentalization moderated the impact of maternal COVID-19 exposure on children’s anxious/depressed problems (β = −1.08, p = 0.04). Hypermentalization moderated both the relation between maternal distress and children’s aggressive behaviors (β = 12.226; p < 0.001) and between maternal distress and children’s attention problems (β = 5.617, p < 0.001). We found pivotal significant effects of maternal hypermentalization on children’s anxious/depressed and attention problems, indicating that the higher the mother’s hypermentalization was, the higher the children’s problems were. Our results broaden what we knew on the role of maternal reflective and emotional functioning on children’s emotional/behavioral adjustment during stressful situations. View Full-Text
Keywords: COVID-19; reflective functioning; children’s internalizing problems; children’s externalizing problems; maternal psychological distress COVID-19; reflective functioning; children’s internalizing problems; children’s externalizing problems; maternal psychological distress
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bianco, F.; Levante, A.; Petrocchi, S.; Lecciso, F.; Castelli, I. Maternal Psychological Distress and Children’s Internalizing/Externalizing Problems during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Moderating Role Played by Hypermentalization. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 10450. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910450

AMA Style

Bianco F, Levante A, Petrocchi S, Lecciso F, Castelli I. Maternal Psychological Distress and Children’s Internalizing/Externalizing Problems during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Moderating Role Played by Hypermentalization. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(19):10450. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910450

Chicago/Turabian Style

Bianco, Federica, Annalisa Levante, Serena Petrocchi, Flavia Lecciso, and Ilaria Castelli. 2021. "Maternal Psychological Distress and Children’s Internalizing/Externalizing Problems during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Moderating Role Played by Hypermentalization" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 19: 10450. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910450

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