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Children and COVID-19 Research Library

UNICEF Innocenti's curated library of COVID-19 + Children research

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Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on caregiver mental health and the child caregiving environment in a low-resource, rural context

AUTHOR(S)
Helen O. Pitchik; Fahmida Tofail; Fahmida Akter (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: Child Development
Early child development has been influenced directly and indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic, and these effects are exacerbated in contexts of poverty. This study estimates effects of the pandemic and subsequent population lockdowns on mental health, caregiving practices, and freedom of movement among female caregivers of children 6–27 months (50% female), in rural Bangladesh. A cohort (N = 517) was assessed before and during the pandemic (May–June, 2019 and July–September, 2020). Caregivers who experienced more food insecurity and financial loss during the pandemic reported larger increases in depressive symptoms (0.26 SD, 95% CI 0.08–0.44; 0.21 SD, 0.04–0.40) compared to less affected caregivers. Stimulating caregiving and freedom of movement results were inconsistent. Increases in depressive symptoms during the pandemic may have consequences for child development.
SNAP participation among low-income US households stays stagnant while food insecurity escalates in the months following the COVID-19 pandemic

AUTHOR(S)
Punam Ohri-Vachaspati; Francesco Acciai; Robin S. DeWeese

Published: September 2021   Journal: Preventive Medicine Reports
The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased food-insecurity rates, particularly among low-income households. Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was expected to rise in response. This study surveyed 931 US residents from households with annual incomes below $50,000 to collect information on food security and food assistance program participation in the year prior to the pandemic and in the first four months of the pandemic, along with household and individual-level demographics. Food insecurity increased from 31% prior to the pandemic to 39% in the first four months of the pandemic, while SNAP participation stagnated. Even more alarmingly, among low-income households that were also food-insecure, 47% participated in SNAP prior to the pandemic but only 39% did so in the first four months following the pandemic’s onset. In particular, Black households, households with children, and those in the lowest income category experienced the largest declines in SNAP participation. Food assistance programs designed to alleviate hunger should facilitate participation among the most vulnerable, especially when these groups are faced with multiple challenges, like during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents’ self-reported psychological impacts of COVID-19: associations with parental burnout, child behavior, and income

AUTHOR(S)
Margaret L Kerr; Kerrie A. Fanning; Tuyen Huynh (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: Journal of Pediatric Psychology

The current study investigates associations between parents’ perceived coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) psychological impacts and experiences of parental burnout, children’s behaviors, and income. Data were collected during an online survey of parents’ (N = 1000) pandemic experiences in April 2020. Parents (M = 36.5 years old, SD = 6.0; 82.1% White) with at least one child 12 years or younger reported on measures of mental health, perceived COVID-19 impacts, parental burnout, and perceived increases in children’s stress and positive behaviors.

Understanding patterns of food insecurity and family well-being amid the COVID-19 pandemic using daily surveys

AUTHOR(S)
Samantha Steimle; Anna Gassman-Pines; Anna D. Johnson (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: Child Development
This paper investigates economic and psychological hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic among a diverse sample (61% Latinx; 16% White; 9% Black; 14% mixed/other race) of socioeconomically disadvantaged parents (90% mothers; mean age = 35 years) and their elementary school-aged children (ages 4–11; 49% female) in rural Pennsylvania (N = 272). Families participating in a local food assistance program reported on food insecurity (FI) and parent and child mood and behavior daily from January to May 2020. Longitudinal models revealed that FI, negative parent and child mood, and child misbehavior significantly increased when schools closed; only FI and parent depression later decreased. FI decreased most among those who received the local food assistance program; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program receipt uniquely predicted decreases in child FI.
Depressed and socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers’ progression into a randomized controlled mobile mental health and parenting intervention: a descriptive examination prior to and during COVID-19

AUTHOR(S)
Kathleen M. Baggett; Betsy Davis; Elizabeth A. Mosley (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: Frontiers in Psychology
Infants of low-income and depressed mothers are at high risk for poor developmental outcomes. Early parenting mediates infant experiences from birth, and early intervention can support sensitive and responsive parent practices that optimize infant outcomes via promoting developmental competencies. However, low-income and depressed mothers experience substantial challenges to participating in early intervention. They also have extremely limited access to interventions targeting depression. Interventions targeting maternal depression and parent practices can improve maternal and infant outcomes. Mobile internet-based interventions overcome numerous barriers that low-resource mothers face in accessing home-based interventions. Pandemic-related stressors likely reduce family resources and exacerbate distress of already heavily-burdened mother-infant dyads. During crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, evidence-based remote coaching interventions are paramount. This article reports on a mobile intervention for improving maternal mood and increasing parent practices that promote infant development. An ongoing randomized controlled trial study provided a unique opportunity to monitor progression from referral to intervention initiation between two groups of depressed mothers: those prior to the pandemic and during the pandemic. The study also examines mother and infant characteristics at baseline. The sample consisted primarily of Black mothers experiencing extreme poverty who self-referred to the study in a large southern city, which is one of the most income disparate in the United States.
Are the kids really alright? Impact of COVID-19 on mental health in a majority Black American sample of schoolchildren

AUTHOR(S)
Amanpreet Bhogal; Breanna Borg; Tanja Jovanovic (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: Psychiatry Research
Children from historically disadvantaged groups (racial minorities, lower socioeconomic status [SES]) may be particularly susceptible to mental health consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study examined the impact of the pandemic, including mental health symptoms and COVID-19-related fears and behaviors, in a sample of majority Black American (72%) children (n=64, ages 7–10, 24 female) from an urban area with high infection rates.
Health equity, schooling hesitancy, and the social determinants of learning

AUTHOR(S)
Meira Levinson; Alan C. Geller; Joseph G. Allen (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: The Lancet Regional Health - Americas
At least 62 million K-12 students in North America—disproportionately low-income children of color— have been physically out of school for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These children are at risk of significant academic, social, mental, and physical harm now and in the long-term. We review the literature about school safety and the conditions that shape families’ and teachers’ choices to return to in-person schooling. We identify four causes of schooling hesitancy in the U.S. even where schools can be safely reopened: high community transmission rates; the politicization of school re-openings; long-term racialized disinvestment in urban districts; and parents’ rational calculations about their family's vulnerability due to the social determinants of health.
Persistent inequality and COVID-19 holding back young people in Vietnam: evidence from the Listening to young lives at work COVID-19 phone survey

AUTHOR(S)
Kath Ford; Nguyen Thang; Le Thuc Duc

Published: August 2021

This policy brief looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of young people in Vietnam, particularly those from poor households, remote and rural communities, and ethnic minority groups. While Vietnam was successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 during 2020, the recent surge in infection rates and new restrictions are likely to have significant and worsening economic and social impacts for young people. This brief focuses on the broader economic and social impacts of the pandemic, presenting findings from the Listening to Young Lives at Work COVID-19 phone survey conducted in the second half of 2020 (Favara, Crivello et al. 2021). It highlights findings from Vietnam alongside comparative analysis with the other three Young Lives study countries (Ethiopia, India and Peru), to ensure that lessons learned from countries grappling with different stages of the pandemic inform the policy recommendations. Three key areas of impact are covered: interrupted education and inequality in learning outcomes; increased domestic work, particularly for girls and young women; and current and potential longer-term mental health and well-being implications.

The influence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including the COVID-19 pandemic, and toxic stress on development and health outcomes of Latinx children in the USA: a review of the literature

AUTHOR(S)
Natalie Claypool; Arelis Moore de Peralta

Published: July 2021   Journal: International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice
The purpose of this review is to synthesize existing literature to analyze the influence of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), including the COVID-19 pandemic, and toxic stress on child development and lifelong health outcomes of Latinx children in the USA, utilizing the ACE framework. Without adequate protective factors, children’s early experiences with adversity and toxic stress have implications for their physiological, psychological, and social health. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown to exacerbate childhood adversity and toxic stress and has disproportionately harmed Latinx communities. In applying the ACE framework to US-Latinx populations, relevant findings concerning a potential failure of ACEs to accurately capture Latinx experiences of adversity were highlighted, as well as the need to classify the COVID-19 pandemic as an ACE. Research suggest that first-generation Latinx immigrants report lower-than-average rates of ACEs despite the various disparities ethnic minorities face in the USA.
Supporting vulnerable girls and young women in India: evidence from the Listening to Young lives at work COVID-19 phone survey

AUTHOR(S)
Renu Singh; Kath Ford

Institution: Young Lives
Published: June 2021
This policy brief focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of vulnerable girls and young women in India, particularly in relation to the combined pressures of interrupted education, increased domestic work, and widespread stresses on household finances. It analyses the current and potential long-term impact on mental health and well-being, increasing domestic violence and risks of early marriage and parenthood.
Rethinking home-school partnerships: lessons learned from latinx parents of young children during the COVID-19 era

AUTHOR(S)
Lucinda Soltero-González; Cristina Gillanders

Published: June 2021   Journal: Early Childhood Education Journal

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted families from low-income backgrounds. The shift to remote learning has required parents with preschool-age children to adapt to new ways of collaborating with teachers. Given the longstanding inequities in the education of children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, exacerbated by the pandemic, it is critical to learn about the challenges that parents encountered and how they supported their children’s learning. This knowledge will help to identify ways to better serve these communities during times of crisis and beyond. This study examined how Latinx parents from low-income backgrounds engaged in their children’s early education during the COVID-19 crisis. The term Latinx is used in an effort to be gender inclusive when referring to people of Latin American descent.

A new educational normal an intersectionality-led exploration of education, learning technologies, and diversity during COVID-19

AUTHOR(S)
Enrico Gandolfi; Richard E. Ferdig; Annette Kratcoski

Published: June 2021   Journal: Technology in Society
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the learning technologies disparity in the U.S. K-12 education system, thus broadening an already existing and troublesome digital divide. Low-income and minority students and families were particularly disadvantaged in accessing hardware and software technologies to support teaching and learning. Moreover, the homicide of George Floyd fostered a new wave of inquiry about racism and inequality, questioning often enabled with and through technology and social media. To address these issues, this article explores how parents and teachers experienced the pandemic through intersectional and digital divide-driven lenses.
Building our imagined futures: supporting resilience among young women and men in Ethiopia
Institution: Young Lives, UK Aid, *UNICEF
Published: April 2021
This policy brief draws on a qualitative study that uses a gender perspective to investigate the notion of resilience among a cohort of young women and young men who grew up in poverty in five rural and urban communities in Ethiopia, and who are part of the broader Young Lives longitudinal study of 3000 children and young people in the country.  It asks why some children seem to fare well as they transistion to adulthood, despite the challenges and obstacles they had faced, whilst others do less well.
COVID-19 and children's health in the United States: consideration of physical and social environments during the pandemic.

AUTHOR(S)
José R. Suarez-Lopez; Maryann R. Cairns; Kam Sripada (et al.)

Published: April 2021   Journal: Environmental Research
Public health measures necessary to  counteract the  coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have resulted in dramatic changes in the physical and social environments within which children grow and develop. As our understanding of the pathways for viral exposure and associated health outcomes in children evolves, it is critical to consider how changes in the social, cultural, economic, and physical environments resulting from the pandemic could affect the development of children. This review article considers the environments and settings that create the backdrop for children’s health in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, including current threats to child development that stem from: A) change in exposures to environmental contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, disinfectants, air pollution and the built environment; B) changes in food environments resulting from adverse economic repercussion of the pandemic and limited reach of existing safety nets; C) limited access to children’s educational and developmental resources; D) changes in the social environments at the  individual and household levels, and their interplay with family stressors and mental health; E)  social injustice and racism. The environmental changes due to COVID-19 are overlaid onto existing environmental and social disparities. This results in  disproportionate effects among children in  low-income settings and among populations experiencing the effects of structural racism.
What the COVID-19 pandemic reveals about racial differences in child welfare and child well-being

AUTHOR(S)
Zachary Parolin

Published: February 2021   Journal: Race and Social Problems
This paper introduces the special issue on race, child welfare, and child well-being. In doing so, I summarize the evidence of racial/ethnic disparities in child well-being after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent findings demonstrate that, compared to white children, black and Latino children are more likely to have experienced poverty and food insufficiency, to have had parents lose their jobs, and to be exposed to distance learning and school closures during the pandemic. I argue that though COVID-19 has indeed worsened racial/ethnic disparities in child well-being, it has also served to place a spotlight on the American welfare state’s historical mistreatment of low-income families and black and Latino families in particular. Consider that around three-fourths of black and Latino children facing food insufficiency during the pandemic also experienced food insufficiency prior to the onset of the pandemic. Moving forward, analyses of racial/ethnic disparities in child well-being during the pandemic, I argue, must not only consider the economic shock and high unemployment rates of 2020, but the failure of the American welfare state to adequately support jobless parents, and black and Latino parents in particular, long before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.
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UNICEF Innocenti's Children and COVID-19 Library is a database collecting research from around the world on COVID-19 and its impacts on children and adolescents.

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COVID-19 & Children: Rapid Research Response

UNICEF Innocenti is mobilizing a rapid research response in line with UNICEF’s global response to the COVID-19 crisis. The initiatives we’ve begun will provide the broad range of evidence needed to inform our work to scale up rapid assessment, develop urgent mitigating strategies in programming and advocacy, and preparation of interventions to respond to the medium and longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. The research projects cover a rapid review of evidence, education analysis, and social and economic policies.