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Scand J Public Health. 2012 Nov;40(7):596-604. doi: 10.1177/1403494812460347. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

Parenting stress and emotional wellbeing in mothers and fathers of preschool children.

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Department of Paediatrics, Sørlandet Hospital, Arendal, Norway.



The aims of the study were to compare parenting stress and emotional wellbeing in mothers and fathers of preschool children, to look for predictors of different aspects of parenting stress in mothers and fathers, and to discriminate parenting stress from psychological distress and anxiety.


We studied 256 mothers and 204 fathers of children aged 1-7 years. The Swedish Parenthood Stress Questionnaire (SPSQ) assesses stress related to parenting. Emotional wellbeing was defined by the General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28) and the State Anxiety Inventory (STAI-X1) that measures psychological distress and anxiety, respectively.


Fathers reported significantly more social isolation than mothers (P < 0.001). On all other parameters mothers, had higher scores, representing more stress and less wellbeing than fathers. Anxiety and psychological stress were strong predictors of parental stress in both mothers and fathers. Furthermore, maternal parental stress was predicted by birth of subsequent children and younger child age. Higher educational attainment predicted increased role restriction in fathers and more health problems in mothers. A principal component analysis (PCA) of the SPSQ, GHQ-28, and STAI-X1 showed that all endpoints of the analysis are positively correlated.


Fathers reported significantly more social isolation, but less role restriction, incompetence and state anxiety than mothers. The SPSQ together with GHQ-28 and STAI-X1 allow a targeted screening aimed at contrasting parents who experience reduced emotional wellbeing with those who struggle with stress directly related to their parenting role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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