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How did COVID affect family roles and mental health?


Background


In the last two years, COVID has affected many people's lives in almost every aspect. While most had to self isolate themselves quarantine has shown impacts on families' roles, routine and mental health. Some believe that the COVID pandemic could have lasting impacts on families as well.


Lasting Impacts of the Virus


Researchers from the University of Worcester, in collaboration with Relate, discovered that the epidemic, lockdowns, and limits enforced will have long-term consequences for our relationships. While families are suffering consequences of the pandemic such as financial insecurity and mental health.


Professor Jan Walker, OBE, President of Relate said, “We have become a society plagued by high levels of fear and anxiety, and this fear will linger around for a long time, just like the ‘long-Covid’, changing people’s behaviour”. Families Unlocked is a research project. Upwards of 800 people took part in the study, the majority of them were married or in a monogamous relationship, and nearly half of them were parents with children under the age of 18 living in their home during the time of the epidemic. Notably, a third of the respondents said they worked in a "key worker" employment during the pandemic, and a comparable percentage said their partner worked in a "key worker" occupation as well.


Dr. Gabriela Misca, a child and family psychologist at the University of Worcester, is the study's lead investigator. They examined the effects of the first lockdown and relationships. They found that the lockdown strained 45 percent of couples, with 25 percent citing fear about the pandemic as a source of stress, and a similar percentage citing money difficulties as a source of additional pressure.


Additionally, a third of couples claimed that the pandemic worsened relationships that were already struggling, and these couples were that of “key workers” or were partners of key workers.


However, part of the study claims to find that some couples (36%) found that their lockdown was a beneficial experience for them, allowing these couples to become closer to one another.



Image is courtesy of thechicagoschool.


Parental Concerns


According to Statistics Canada, a survey was conducted using a questionnaire to ask Canadians who completed it their experiences during the pandemic. That being said the data is not a true representation of the Canadian population however it does allow for a glimpse at what families were going through.

  • Social engagement

  • Due to lockdown and quarantine, many extracurricular activities have been cancelled for kids along with school, which is usually where kids would be doing most of their socializing. It is because of this that parents, almost 75%, are concerned about their children’s social engagement.

  • More than half (54%) of parents were very or extremely concerned about their children's loneliness or social isolation, and almost three-quarters (71%) were very or extremely concerned about their children's opportunity to associate with peers. Approximately 64% of participants were very or extremely concerned about how much screen time their children were spending, while only 8% were not bothered at all.

  • Responsibility

  • Most parents during lockdown and closures of schools had to balance new responsibilities and roles. 74% of participants feeling extremely stressed could be due to their usual duties including work and caring for their children, but with the added pressure of keeping up with their own work responsibilities (from home or in their regular workplace), caring for their children without the assistance of child care or school, and assist their children with academic activities Families with just young school-aged children (those aged 11 and under) were the most anxious about juggling child care, schooling, and job (80 percent of these participants were very or extremely concerned, compared with 55 percent of participants with only older school-aged children).

  • Align with many (43%) feeling concerned about keeping up connections and (30%) feeling isolated in their home, (37%) are doing well supporting each other.

  • Many at the time also felt stressed to managing their own as well as their children behaviours (anxiety and emotions)

  • Screen time vs Physical activity

  • Due to lockdown children have had lost most opportunities to have an excuse to go outside. During the pandemic, many participating parents were concerned about how much screen time their children were spending.

  • Screen time may be one of the few ways for children to interact with others, such as instructors and peers.

  • Screen time, on the other hand, maybe the consequence of a lack of alternative activities to occupy children's time or a necessity for parents to take a break from work.

  • According to the crowdsourcing results, nearly nine out of ten participants indicated their children watched television on a regular or very daily basis.

  • However, the results found that children in the home were the most likely to report that their children engaged in most activities on a daily basis, including reading books or stories (85%), physical activity (75%), playing games (36%), music, drama, or visual arts (33%), and developing other skills (33%). (23 percent). These individuals were also the least likely to report daily screen use, despite the fact that three out of four still did.


Image is courtesy of psu.


Helping Out


According to Canada, in December 2021 Jean-Yves Duclos announced for the Canadian government to invest 13.7 million in almost 90 COVID-19 research projects. 70 will be focused on learning more of the impact of the pandemic on families and youth, while 19 will be occupied on promoting vaccination. The health minister in a quote said, “Investing in science is essential to protect the health and well-being of Canadians during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. I congratulate the successful teams whose work will help to improve vaccine confidence and address the wide range of impacts this pandemic has had on Canadian families.”



Article Author: Idil Gure

Article Editors: Stephanie Sahadeo, Sherilyn Wen