Women's Experiences of the Effect of Financial Strain on Parenting and Mental Health

Lucy E. Marcil*, Jeffrey I. Campbell, Katie E. Silva, Diána Hughes, Saraf Salim, Hong An T. Nguyen, Katherine Kissler, Michael K. Hole, Catherine D. Michelson, Caroline J. Kistin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: To develop a conceptual theory to describe how financial strain affects women with young children to inform clinical care and research. Design: Qualitative, grounded theory. Setting: Participants were recruited from the waiting area of a pediatric clinic and an office of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children embedded within the largest safety-net academic medical center in New England. Participants were interviewed privately at the medical center or in the community. Participants: Twenty-six English-speaking women, mostly single and African American/Black, with at least one child 5 years old or younger, were sampled until thematic saturation was met. Methods: We used grounded theory methodology to conduct in-depth, semistructured interviews with participants who indicated that they experienced financial strain. We analyzed the interview data using constant comparative analysis, revised the interview guide based on emerging themes, and developed a theoretical model. Results: Five interrelated themes emerged and were developed into a theoretical model: Financial Strain Has Specific Characteristics and Common Triggers, Financial Strain Is Exacerbated by Inadequate Assistance and Results in Tradeoffs, Financial Strain Forces Parenting Modifications, Women Experience Self-Blame, and Women Experience Mental Health Effects. Conclusion: For women with young children, financial strain results in forced tradeoffs, compromised parenting practices, and self-blame, which contribute to significant mental health problems. These findings can inform woman-centered clinical practice and advocacy interventions. Women's health care providers should identify families experiencing financial strain, provide referrals to financial services, and join advocacy efforts to advance social policies that address the structural causes of poverty, such as increased minimum wage and paid family leave. Women with young children may experience financial strain, which contributes to mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-592
Number of pages12
JournalJOGNN - Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • grounded theory
  • maternal health
  • parenting
  • pregnancy
  • safety-net providers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Critical Care
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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