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Children and COVID-19 Research Library

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

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1 - 15 of 287
We stick together! COVID-19 and psychological adjustment in youth residential care

Mónica Costa; Paula Mena Matos; Beatriz Santos (et al.)

Published: October 2021   Journal: Child Abuse & Neglect

Children and youth residential care institutions were forced to introduce adaptations to their regular functioning in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of the lockdown on the adolescents’ psychological adjustment and whether adolescents’ perceived cohesion mitigated the increase of adolescents` psychological adjustment problems. Participants were 243 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years, living in 21 different residential care institutions.

Young people’s mental health is finally getting the attention it needs
Published: October 2021   Journal: Nature

Worldwide, at least 13% of people between the ages of 10 and 19 live with a diagnosed mental-health disorder, according to the latest State of the World’s Children report, published this week by the United Nations children’s charity UNICEF. It’s the first time in the organization’s history that this flagship report has tackled the challenges in and opportunities for preventing and treating mental-health problems among young people. It reveals that adolescent mental health is highly complex, understudied — and underfunded. These findings are echoed in a parallel collection of review articles published this week in a number of Springer Nature journals. Anxiety and depression constitute more than 40% of mental-health disorders among young people (those aged 10–19). UNICEF also reports that, worldwide, suicide is the fourth most-common cause of death (after road injuries, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence) among adolescents (aged 15–19). In eastern Europe and central Asia, suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in that age group — and it’s the second-highest cause in western Europe and North America.

Changes in sleep-wake patterns, circadian timing, and mood in Australian teens during the COVID-19 pandemic

J. Stone; A. Phillips; J. Wiley (et al.)

Published: October 2021   Journal: SLEEP Advances
During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools rapidly transitioned from in-person to remote learning. This study examined sleep- and mood-related changes in early adolescents, before and after this transition to assess the impact of in-person vs. remote learning. Sleep-wake timing was measured using wrist-actigraphy and sleep diaries over 1–2 weeks in Year 7 students (age M±SD =12.79±0.42 years) during in-person learning (n=28) and remote learning (n=58; n=27 were studied in both conditions). Circadian timing was measured under a single condition in each individual using salivary melatonin (Dim Light Melatonin Onset; DLMO)
An exploratory case study of mindfulness techniques in a high school band program during the COVID-19 pandemic

Karen M. Koner; Abigayle Weaver

Published: October 2021   Journal: Update: Applications of Research in Music Education
The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of mindfulness practices on high school band students. This action research project took place in spring 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders. Four students enrolled in the high school band participated in five weeks of mindfulness practice interventions over the virtual format alongside their instrumental music director. Mindfulness practices included diaphragmatic breathing, relaxation imagery, cued relaxation, and stretching. Throughout the five weeks, student participants discussed improved focus, improvement of stress management, and increased frequency of mindfulness practice. However, four months after data collection was complete, three of the four student participants continued to practice mindfulness techniques on their own time to assist with nervousness, anxiety, and stress.
Sleep during COVID-19-related school lockdown, a longitudinal study among high school students

Ingvild West Saxvig; Ståle Pallesen; Børge Sivertsen (et al.)

Published: October 2021   Journal: Journal of Sleep Research
There has been great concern about the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related school lockdown on adolescent health. The aim of the present study was to compare sleep patterns before and during COVID-19-related school lockdown, in a large sample of high school students. The present study is based a prospective, longitudinal survey on adolescent sleep health. Phase 1 was conducted in 2019, whereas phase 2 was conducted in 2020 (response rate 60.2%), during the last 10 days of a 60-day long school lockdown. Main outcomes comprised sleep parameters from the Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ). A total of 2,022 students provided valid responses to MCTQ in both survey phases.
Drug use by young people did not go up or down during pandemic

Alison Knopf

Published: October 2021   Journal: Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter
Alcohol use declined and use of nicotine and misuse of prescriptions increased among 10–14-year-olds during the pandemic, according to a study published last week. Overall, the rate of drug use among these young people remained stable during the pandemic based on repeated surveys of more than 7,800 people ages 10 to 14 conducted between Sep. 2019 and Aug. 2020.
Young people’s romantic relationships and sexual activity before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jennifer Yarger; Abigail Gutmann-Gonzalez; Sarah Han (et al.)

Published: October 2021   Journal: BMC Public Health

Social distancing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 may profoundly impact young people’s relationships. This study compared adolescent and young adults’ romantic relationships and sexual activity before and after social distancing policies were enacted. In June 2020, 351 youth participating in an ongoing intervention study in Fresno County, California completed an online survey about their experiences related to COVID-19. The survey included open and closed-ended questions about their romantic relationships, sexual activity, and online romantic or sexual interactions before and during social distancing restrictions. The chi-square test of independence was used to compare adolescent (ages 13–17) and young adults’ (ages 18–21) responses. Results were also compared to responses in the intervention study’s baseline survey.

Exploring carer burden amongst those caring for a child or adolescent with an eating disorder during COVID-19

Kristen Maunder; Fiona McNicholas

Published: October 2021   Journal: Journal of Eating Disorders volume

Carer burden amongst carers of youth with an eating disorder is substantial and if not addressed can lead to negative outcomes for the patient, carer and family. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has made caring for youth with an ED even more onerous and preliminary research is beginning to emerge demonstrating the profound negative impact the pandemic is having upon individuals with EDs and their carers. This review briefly summarizes what is known about carer burden in families where a young person has an ED, considers the additional impact consequent to COVID-19 and highlights the need for interventions aimed at alleviating this. Pre-COVID-19 research identifies high levels of psychological and physical strain amongst those caring for a child with an ED. Themes are beginning to emerge as to why COVID-19 may further exacerbate carer burden: (1) reduced access to ED services; (2) increased physical vulnerability and exacerbation of psychiatric co-morbidity amongst youth with EDs; (3) increased practical demands placed on carers; and (4) social isolation and decreased social support.

Brief report: feasibility and acceptability of a remote-based nutrition education program for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: a COVID-19 pilot study

Riley H. Shurack; Jeanette M. Garcia; Keith Brazendale (et al.)

Published: October 2021   Journal: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
This paper aims to examine the feasibility and acceptability of a remote-based nutrition education program during COVID-19 for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Ten adolescents with ASD participated in a 4-week nutrition education program utilizing Zoom software during COVID-19. Topics included shopping for healthy food, and food preparation safety measures. Attendance was collected for each session. Participants, parents, and the classroom teacher completed post-program surveys and interviews. The course attendance rate was 97%. Every adolescent reported they would participate in similar future programs, and the teacher/parents felt the program was a positive experience for the participants. The remote-based nutrition education program appeared to be feasible and acceptable to participants. Future research should focus on program efficacy.
Children’s psychological reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic

Betty Pfefferbaum

Published: October 2021   Journal: Current Psychiatry Reports

This paper reviews the literature on the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and the reactions of vulnerable children. Research reveals increases in clinically significant depression, suicidal ideation and behavior, and some anxiety symptoms. Substance use studies suggest an inadvertent decrease in substance use in some youth though findings are inconsistent across substances and for males and females. Children with pre-existing emotional and behavioral problems are especially vulnerable though some children appear to improve in the context of public health measures which have decreased the stresses associated with school and socialization. In addition, children with pre-existing problems are likely to have established resources and relationships that may protect them relative to other children.

Coping with COVID-19: longitudinal impact of the pandemic on adjustment and links with coping for adolescents with and without ADHD

Melissa R. Dvorsky; Rosanna Breaux; Caroline N. Cusick (et al.)

Published: October 2021   Journal: Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Understanding factors that foster resilience and buffer against the negative psychological impact of COVID-19 is critical to inform efforts to promote adjustment, reduce risk, and improve care, particularly for adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders. This prospective longitudinal study addresses this gap by investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents’ mental health and substance use, and by assessing specific positive coping strategies among adolescents with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Using multi-group autoregressive cross-lagged path models, the present study explored the reciprocal influence of positive coping behaviors on multiple adjustment outcomes including mental health symptoms, substance use, stress, and worry.
Physical and mental health impact of COVID-19 on children, adolescents, and their families: The Collaborative Outcome study on Health and Functioning during Infection Times - Children and Adolescents (COH-FIT-C&A)

Marco Solmi; Christoph U. Correll

Published: October 2021   Journal: Journal of Affective Disorders

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered daily routines and family functioning, led to closing schools, and dramatically limited social interactions worldwide. Measuring its impact on mental health of vulnerable children and adolescents is crucial. The Collaborative Outcome study on Health and Functioning during Infection Times (COH-FIT – is an on-line anonymous survey, available in 30 languages, involving >220 investigators from 49 countries supported by national/international professional associations. COH-FIT has thee waves (until the pandemic is declared over by the WHO, and 6-18 months plus 24-36 months after its end). In addition to adults, COH-FIT also includes adolescents (age 14-17 years), and children (age 6-13 years), recruited via non-probability/snowball and representative sampling and assessed via self-rating and parental rating.

Swedish middle school students’ psychosocial well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal study

Emily G. Vira; Therése Skoog

Published: October 2021   Journal: SSM - Population Health
Child well-being concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic have been reported from countries with strict lockdowns and school closures. Sweden's middle school students attended school as normal during the pandemic, but it is still unknown how their well-being has changed during the pandemic. This study aimed to assess differences in Swedish students' psychosocial well-being from before to during the pandemic. Longitudinal data (N = 849) were collected via self-report surveys across two time-points separated by approximately one year. The second data collection took place 8–9 months after the start of the pandemic in Sweden.
Pilot study of a well-being app to support New Zealand young people during the COVID-19 pandemic

Anna Serlachius; Anna Boggiss; David Lim (et al.)

Published: October 2021   Journal: Internet Interventions

Well-being apps represent a promising and scalable approach for improving mental health outcomes in youth, especially during a global pandemic when access to face-to-face interventions may be limited. Whitu (meaning 7 in the New Zealand Māori language Te Reo) is a newly developed well-being app with 7 modules that support young people to learn and practice evidence-based coping skills, including relaxation, mindfulness, self-compassion, and goal-setting. This pilot explored the acceptability, usability, and preliminary efficacy of Whitu before refining the app for a randomized controlled trial (RCT).

Prosocial development in adolescence

Eveline A. Crone; Michelle Achterberg

Published: October 2021   Journal: Current Opinion in Psychology
This review describes the development of prosocial behavior in adolescence as a critical inflection period for social adjustment. Experimental research using prosocial giving tasks demonstrates that adolescents differentiate more between recipients and contexts, suggesting increasing ingroup-outgroup differentiation during adolescence. It also demonstrates that social brain development during adolescence is partly driven by environmental influences, further underlining adolescence as a critical period for social development. The COVID-19 pandemic has had and will have long-term effects on the current generation of adolescents, for which we describe both the risks, resilience factors, and opportunities for engaging in prosocial acts of kindness.
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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.