Forresi, B., Giani, L., Scaini, S., Nicolais, G., & Caputi, M. (2023). The Mediation of Care and Overprotection between Parent-Adolescent Conflicts and Adolescents’ Psychological Difficulties during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Which Role for Fathers? – International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(3), 1957


Background: There is evidence of a significant raise in youths’ emotional and behavioral difficulties during the pandemic. Only a few studies have addressed parent-adolescent conflict, and none investigated the possible mediating effect of parenting in the association between conflicts with parents and adolescents’ symptoms. This study aimed at investigating youths’ psychological symptoms during the pandemic, focusing on the predicting effect of parent-adolescent conflict. The mediating role of care and overprotection was also explored, considering whether adolescent gender moderated this mediation. Methods: 195 adolescents aged 14–18 years participated in an online longitudinal study. Perceived conflict with parents and parenting dimensions (Parental Bonding Instrument; PBI) were assessed at baseline (2021). Self-reported psychological difficulties (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; SDQ) were collected at baseline and after one year (2022). Results: A significantly severer symptomatology was found in adolescents having a conflictual relationship with one or both parents. Major conflicts with parents correlated with lower care and greater overprotection in mothers and fathers. However, parental overprotection and maternal care were not mediators of the relationship between conflict and youths’ difficulties. The only exception was represented by paternal care that fully mediated this relationship in both adolescent males and females. Conclusions: Although further investigations are needed to overcome limitations due to the small sample, findings extend our insight into the impact of parent-adolescent conflict, highlighting the role of fathers’ care and the need to maximize their involvement in clinical interventions.