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ISSN: 2183-2803

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Family Climate in Pandemic Times: Adolescents and Mothers

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Abstract:  In this article, we examine changes in family climate during the first Covid‐19‐related lockdown in Germany. We compare the perspectives of mothers and adolescents to explore whether the factors of perceived changes in family climate are systematically and significantly different between these groups. We measure family climate as positive emotional climate, a sub‐dimension of the family environment scale, to capture a feeling of cohesion and emotional openness within the family. Based on family system theory and the family stress model, we expect an overall deterioration in family climate due to increased environmental adaptation in the pandemic. Furthermore, we expect family climate to deteriorate less when families have economic and social resources available. On the other hand, we assume that being employed and/or primarily responsible for family care relates to a stronger decline in the family climate. We employ longitudinal survey data (AID:A) from around 300 German families with children aged nine to 17 and apply individual fixed effects models to investigate changes in family climate from 2019 to 2020. Almost half of our respondents report a decrease in family climate. For mothers, the share of unpaid care work at home is the only significant predictor: Mothers doing more than 80% of the chores and childcare feel a greater decrease in family climate. For adolescents, however, being at risk of poverty and having less frequent family activities are important predictors of stronger decreases in family climate. In summary, our results illustrate the relevance of distinguishing between the perspective of children and parents in family studies.

Keywords:  adolescents; AID:A; Covid‐19; family climate; Germany; lockdown; mothers

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v11i1.6007


© Thomas Eichhorn, Simone Schüller, Hannah Sinja Steinberg, Claudia Zerle-Elsäßer. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.