How mothers and children experiencing adversity are faring during COVID-19

A new open access study in PLOS ONE by CCCH, ARACY and UWS explores how COVID-19 and lockdowns are affecting the mental health of mothers and children experiencing adversity.

Emerging global evidence shows that the COVID-19 pandemic, and related public health restrictions, have had adverse impacts on the mental health of parents and children.

This is true even for countries that have experienced relatively low rates of COVID-19 transmission, such as Australia. The right@home collaborative partnership between the Centre for Community Child Health, ARACY and the Translational Research and Social Innovation Group (UWS) were able to survey over 300 Australian mothers and their 5-to7 year old children, in Victoria and Tasmania across 2020, on the impacts of COVID-19.

While proportions of COVID-19 infection were low (<1%), Australia’s public health restrictions have had substantial financial and social impacts for families experiencing adversity.

Summary of key findings:

  • Over a quarter (27%) of women reported losing their job or income.
  • One-third of mothers reported being moderately to extremely worried about themselves or family members becoming infected (30%) and that changes in contact with family and friends had been moderately to extremely stressful for their child (33%).
  • Half of mothers (49%) reported that their child’s at-home learning often or almost always made their usual duties more difficult.
  • There were also positive changes; 48% of mothers reported that their family had often or almost always found good ways of coping and 29% reported providing support to people in the community.
  • Financial impacts and family stress were both associated with poorer maternal and child mental health, whereas family resilience was associated with better child mental health.

This study highlights the critical importance of financial stability for families during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. To help Australia effectively recover from COVID-19, the economic and healthcare needs of women and children living in adversity must be prioritised. Policy investment in income support and universal and equitable access to family health services are paramount.

Read the full paper here.

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