Child, parent, and family mental health and functioning in Australia during COVID-19: comparison to pre-pandemic data

Westrupp, E.M., Bennett, C., Berkowitz, T., Youssef, G.J., Toumbourou, J.W., Tucker, R., Andrews, F.J., Evans, S., Teague, S.J., Karantzas, G.C., Melvin, G.M., Olsson, C., Macdonald, J.A., Greenwood, C.J., Mikocka-Walus, A., Hutchinson, D., Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M., Stokes, M.A., Olive, L., Wood, A.G., McGillivray, J.A., and Sciberras, E. (2023) Child, parent, and family mental health and functioning in Australia during COVID-19: comparison to pre-pandemic data. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32. pp. 317-330.

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The COVID-19 pandemic presents significant risks to population mental health. Despite evidence of detrimental effects for adults, there has been limited examination of the impact of COVID-19 on parents and children specifically. We aim to examine patterns of parent and child (0–18 years) mental health, parent substance use, couple conflict, parenting practices, and family functioning during COVID-19, compared to pre-pandemic data, and to identify families most at risk of poor outcomes according to pre-existing demographic and individual factors, and COVID-19 stressors. Participants were Australian mothers (81%) and fathers aged 18 years and over who were parents of a child 0–18 years (N = 2365). Parents completed an online self-report survey during ‘stage three’ COVID-19 restrictions in April 2020. Data were compared to pre-pandemic data from four Australian population-based cohorts. Compared to pre-pandemic estimates, during the pandemic period parents reported higher rates of parent depression, anxiety, and stress (Cohen’s d = 0.26–0.81, all p < 0.001), higher parenting irritability (d = 0.17–0.46, all p < 0.001), lower family positive expressiveness (d = − 0.18, p < 0.001), and higher alcohol consumption (22% vs 12% drinking four or more days per week, p < 0.001). In multivariable analyses, we consistently found that younger parent age, increased financial deprivation, pre-existing parent and child physical and mental health conditions, COVID-19 psychological and environmental stressors, and housing dissatisfaction were associated with worse parent and child functioning and more strained family relationships. Our data suggest wide-ranging, detrimental family impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic; and support policy actions to assist families with financial supports, leave entitlements, and social housing.

Item ID: 73652
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1435-165X
Copyright Information: © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2021
Funders: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Projects and Grants: NHMRC Investigator Grant (1197488), NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (1110688), NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (1158487)
Date Deposited: 03 May 2022 02:15
FoR Codes: 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology > 520101 Child and adolescent development @ 100%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2005 Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health) > 200506 Neonatal and child health @ 100%
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