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Effect of daily school and care disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic on child behavior problems


The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly affected American families and children, including through the closure or change in the nature of their care and school settings. As the pandemic has persisted, many children remain in remote schooling and those attending in-person childcare or school have contended with unpredictable closures. This study investigated the frequency and consequences of disruptions to children’s childcare and school arrangements during Fall 2020. The sample is parents who were hourly service-sector workers prior to the pandemic, had a young child between the ages of 3 and 8, and were at least partially responsible for their children’s school and/or care in Fall 2020 (N = 676); half of the sample were non-Hispanic Black, 22% were Hispanic, and 18% are non-Hispanic White. Parents were asked to complete 30 days of daily surveys about whether their care and school arrangements went smoothly and as predicted that day, about their mood, parenting behaviors, and children’s behavior. Results showed that daily disruptions to care and school were common, with families reporting a disruption on 24% of days. Families with children in exclusively remote schooling experienced more frequent disruption than families with children in in-person care or school. For all families, care or school disruptions were related to worse child behavior, more negative parental mood, and increased likelihood of losing temper and punishment. Within-family mediation suggests that parents’ difficulties supporting children’s learning, and to a lesser degree their mood and parenting behaviors, partially mediate effects of disruptions on child behavior. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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