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What Has the Pandemic Done to Families?

Much has been written over the past year of the detrimental impact on individual, couple and family mental health and functioning as a result of the pandemic and in particular rates of violence towards women and children which have escalated as families with an abusive member have been locked down together. However there has not been any study which has explored the ‘magnitude of change in parent, child, and family mental health and adjustment from before to the pandemic period’. A paper by Feinberg, at al (2021) in Family Process, explored this question with a sample of 129 families. Data was collected between 2017 to 2019 where children were on average 7 years old and compared to the first months after widespread public health interventions were imposed. The results demonstrate ‘large deteriorations’ in child internalizing and externalizing problems and parent depression, and moderate decline in co-parenting quality and small effects for parent anxiety and parenting quality. Low family income and mothers showed the greatest risk of decline in wellbeing.

The authors suggest that, just as disruption in business and financial markets may ‘scar’ the economy and make recovery difficult, the analogy may be true of mental health. Difficulties in the intertwined areas of parental mental health, child symptomatology, co-parenting and quality of parenting may act to undermine recovery in one domain by persisting problems in another. For example, there is evidence that parental depression and co-parenting quality are ordinarily linked, and one could postulate that recovery from depression once the pandemic has passed may well be compromised by on-going difficulties with co-parenting.

Once again, a whole systems approach that includes schools, counsellors, family therapists, medical practitioners, family service agencies, paediatricians, clergy and sporting and interest groups is most likely to be helpful in identifying and addressing these long-term consequences.

FEINBERG, M., MOGLE, J., LEE, J TORNELLO, S., HOSTETLER, M, CIFELLI, J. BAI,S., HOTEZ,E.(2021) Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Parent, Child, and Family Functioning  Fam Proc x:1–14, 2021 Version of Record online: 08 April 2021

 

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