Four in Ten Parents of School-Aged Children Say a Child Fell Behind Academically Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Four in Ten Parents Say Someone in Their Household Left a Job or Worked Fewer Hours to Care for Their Children, Including Higher Shares of Black, Hispanic, and Lower-income Parents

As a result of the pandemic, about four in ten (39%) parents of school-aged children (ages 5-17) say at least one of their children fell behind academically, rising to half among parents with household incomes below $40,000 (51%) and Hispanic parents (50%), a new KFF Vaccine Monitor report shows.

Among parents of children under age 18, more than a third (36%) say at least one of their children fell behind in social and emotional development because of the pandemic and about three in ten (29%) say a child experienced mental health or behavioral problems.

Parents whose children attended school at least partially online in the previous school year are more likely than parents whose child attended school all or mostly in-person to say they had a child who fell behind academically (47% vs. 26%) or in their social or emotional development (46% vs. 31%), or experienced mental health or behavioral problems (39% vs. 22%). These differences persist even after controlling for demographic differences including gender, race/ethnicity, income, parents’ education level, and whether children attended a public or private school.

Parents Report Pandemic-Related Emotional and Mental Health Problems for Both Their Children and Themselves

In the past 12 months, about four in ten parents (42%) say their children experienced a new mental health symptom that they did not experience prior to the pandemic, including difficulties concentrating on schoolwork (27%), nervousness or being easily scared (19%), sleeping problems (18%), poor appetite or overeating (15%), or frequent headaches or stomachaches (11%).

A smaller share (17%) of parents say their children received mental health services in the past 12 months and 11% say there was a time they thought their child needed mental health services or medication but did not get them. The main reason parents cite for why their children were unable to receive mental health services was that they could not find a provider (32%).

Many parents themselves report experiencing negative mental health impacts as a result of the pandemic. A majority of parents (54%) say that worry and stress related to the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health. Mothers, Black and Hispanic parents, lower income parents, and parents with recent employment changes are among the groups most likely to report experiencing mental health challenges.

More Than Half of Black Parents and Low-Income Parents Left a Job or Changed Schedules to Care for Their Children During the School Year

About four in ten parents say that they or someone else in their household left a job or changed work schedules in the past year in order to care for their children. Black (53%) and Hispanic (44%) parents are more likely than White parents (32%) to say their household suffered a job disruption due to childcare needs, as are parents with lower incomes (51% of parents with household incomes under $40,000) compared to those with higher incomes (35% of those with incomes of $40,000 or more).

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