Children show increase in mental health difficulties over COVID-19 lockdown

Parents/carers of children aged 4-10 years of age reported that over a one-month period in lockdown, they saw increases in their child’s emotional difficulties, such as feeling unhappy, worried, being clingy and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry, according to early results from the Co-SPACE study, asking parents and carers about their children’s mental health through the COVID-19 crisis.

Parents/carers of primary school age children taking part in the survey report an increase in their child’s emotional, behavioural, and restless/attentional difficulties.

Parents/carers of secondary school age children report a reduction in their child’s emotional difficulties, but an increase in restless/attentional behaviours.

Parents/carers of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and those with a pre-existing mental health difficulty report a reduction in their child’s emotional difficulties and no change in behavioural or restless/attentional difficulties.

Professor Cathy Creswell, Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology, University of Oxford, and co-leading the study, said, ’Prioritising the mental health of children and young people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond is critical. These findings highlight that there is wide variation in how children and young people have been affected, with some finding life easier but others experiencing more difficulties. Our findings have identified some sources of variation but we need to continue to gain a better understanding of which families are struggling and what they need to help direct the right advice and support going forward to ensure that this does not have long-lasting consequences.’

The Co-SPACE (COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics) survey is still open and keen for parents and carers to share their experiences at: www.cospaceoxford.com/survey.

This research is tracking children and young people’s mental health throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Survey results are helping researchers identify what protects children and young people from deteriorating mental health, over time, and at particular stress points, and how this may vary according to child and family characteristics. This will help to identify what advice, support and help parents would find most useful.


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