Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Parenting & Children's Psychological Adjustment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Empirical data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families with school-aged children is limited. We used a cross-sectional, descriptive design to examine pandemic-related family impacts and whether impacts varied based on demographics. We also examined whether parenting behaviors in response to the virus and parent-child interactions were related to pandemic impacts and children's psychological adjustment. We surveyed 595 United States parents (69.2% non-Latinx White, 12.1% Black/African American) using Amazon Mechanical Turk in May 2020. Results revealed that families experienced negative and positive impacts related to the pandemic. Independent samples t-tests and one-way ANOVAs indicated that parents of color, parents with lower income, and parents of elementary school children reported more negative impacts. Correlational analyses revealed parents who encouraged hygienic behaviors and promoted social connection reported their children engaged in more virus safety behaviors and experienced less impairment. Parents who limited access to COVID-19 information reported their children demonstrated more fear, impairment, and safety behaviors. Positive parenting was inversely related to negative pandemic impacts, whereas inconsistent discipline was positively related to negative pandemic impacts and to children's fear and impairment related to COVID-19. Recommendations for how practitioners and school personnel can support parents during the pandemic are provided. IMPACT STATEMENT This study contributes to our growing understanding of demographic trends in parents' COVID-19 responses and also identifies parenting behaviors associated with children's adjustment to the pandemic. Our findings highlight the need for interventions to teach parents how to talk to their children about the virus and help their child cope with the pandemic. Interventions should also focus on helping parents learn and utilize positive and consistent parenting strategies. Schools should consider developing focused supports for families of color, of lower income, and with elementary school-aged children to help reduce burden associated with adverse impacts of the pandemic, such as children's transition to online learning from home.


© 2021 National Association of School Psychologists

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School Psychology Review