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Understanding why the COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown increases mental health difficulties in vulnerable young children

Adegboye, Dolapo, Williams, Ffion, Collishaw, Stephan ORCID:, Shelton, Katherine ORCID:, Langley, Kate ORCID:, Hobson, Christopher, Burley, Daniel and van Goozen, Stephanie ORCID: 2021. Understanding why the COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown increases mental health difficulties in vulnerable young children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Advances 1 (1) , e12005. 10.1111/jcv2.12005

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Background The mental health consequences of school closure, social isolation, increased financial and emotional stress, and greater exposure to family conflicts are likely to be pronounced for primary school children who are known to be vulnerable. Data from prior to the pandemic are needed to provide robust assessments of the impact of COVID‐19 on vulnerable children. Method The present study capitalises on an ongoing study of primary school children (4–8 years) identified as ‘at‐risk’ for mental health problems by teachers. We collected mental health and socio‐economic data prior to the pandemic and re‐assessed this cohort (n = 142) via researcher‐led video calls during the pandemic to evaluate the social and emotional impacts of COVID‐19 for these families. Results Mental health problems, particularly anxiety, increased significantly in these children. Parental mental health difficulties (anxiety and depression) were also prevalent. There were higher reports of financial stress during lockdown amongst low‐income families previously identified as living in poverty, prior to the COVID‐19 pandemic. Financial strain was found to indirectly predict increases in child mental health problems through parental mental health. Conclusion These findings show that the pandemic exacerbated mental health problems in already vulnerable children. These negative outcomes were explained by financial stress (e.g., lost employment, loss of income and inability to pay bills), which was negatively linked to parental mental health.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 2692-9384
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 March 2021
Date of Acceptance: 2 March 2021
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 19:43

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