Study examines children's emotional wellbeing throughout COVID-19 pandemic

Study examines children’s emotional wellbeing throughout COVID-19 pandemic

A new study, released as a preprint on the medRxiv * server, reports the effects of such limited interactions on the emotional health of very young children, as reported by closely involved parents. Study: Children’s emotional wellbeing during spring 2020 COVID-19 restrictions: a qualitative study with parents of young children in England. Image Credit: altafulla / Shutterstock Background

During the first wave of COVID-19 in England, only about 5% of children attended either school or childcare, with the number rising in June 2020. However, the number was still far from normal.

Earlier studies showed that teachers in schools were worried about the potential adverse impact of such isolation on very young learners, starting school for the first time. Would they be able to communicate, develop language skills, and learn to read and write, as earlier generations of children had? Would they play well with others, form teams and develop strong relationships with those other than their primary caregivers?

The context of the postulated deprivation of these socially learned skills in preschool children is also important, since parents are often stressed out with the loss of employment, childcare and opportunities for socialization following the pandemic-related restrictions. Stress in the parents is linked to poor parenting and a decreased quality of family life, and most importantly, less responsive care of their children, which in turn impacts the child’s development.

Some studies reported a higher persistence of emotional and behavioral problems with children older than two years in the pandemic period, though the extent to which this is simply due to greater opportunities to observe the children. How was the study done?

The current paper reports a more detailed study of these issues and the coping measures adopted by these families. The aim is to understand these experiences so as to offer proper support and guide appropriate decisions in future pandemics.

Using the nurturing lens to look at the child-parent relationship in this pandemic, the researchers focused on the formation of attachment between the children and other people other than the primary caregivers. Nurturing is based on attachment theory that considers the relationship between child and primary caregiver as the foundation of a warm and responsive relationship with others thereafter. Such relationships are considered to be essential to providing support to children in difficult times.

Most participants were mothers, and at least one parent was at home without work during the lockdown period. What were the findings?

With the onset of these restrictions, preschool children were faced with not being able to go out to play or to do any public activity, but without the means of understanding why.

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