The Indirect Effect of Parental Intolerance of Uncertainty on Perinatal Mental Health via Mindfulness During COVID-19

Marissa D. Sbrilli, Katherine Haigler, Heidemarie K. Laurent

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Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with mental health difficulties, especially during pregnancy and early postpartum. Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) and reduced capacity for mindfulness—a protective factor for child-bearers—may be particularly relevant factors driving mental health problems given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic. The current study aims to shed light on modifiable paths to perinatal psychological distress by testing whether there is an indirect effect of IU on psychological symptoms through a perceived reduction in mindfulness during the pandemic. Methods: Pregnant individuals (67%, n = 133) and new mothers within 6 months postpartum (33%, n = 66) participated in a cross-sectional online survey assessing IU, current and retrospective pre-pandemic mindfulness (FFMQ), and psychological symptoms (anxiety, depression, somatization; BSI). Perceived change in mindfulness was captured by including retrospective mindfulness as a covariate in the PROCESS macro used for analyses. Results: Tests of the direct association between mindfulness, IU, and psychological symptoms showed significant effects of IU (b = 0.46, SE = 0.064; p <.001) and perceived decrease in mindfulness during the pandemic (b = − 0.72, SE = 0.08, p <.001) on psychological symptoms (R2 =.21–.34; F[2, 197] = 51.13–52.81, p <.001). The indirect effect of IU on symptoms via perceived decrease in mindfulness during the pandemic (b = 0.13, SE = 0.043, 95%CI [.060,.226]) was significant (R2 =.41, F[3, 195] = 45.08, p <.001). Conclusions: Results suggest that mothers who are less able to tolerate uncertainty experience more psychological symptoms, in part due to perceived reduction in mindfulness during the pandemic. Future research should examine whether IU is a screening risk marker and target for mindfulness-based interventions to improve maternal well-being and family outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1999-2008
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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