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Children and COVID-19 Research Library

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

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Mental health and social support of caregivers of children and adolescents with ASD and other developmental disorders during COVID-19 pandemic

Chongying Wang

Published: October 2021   Journal: Journal of Affective Disorders Reports

Previous studies showed that caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders had higher levels of parenting stress, anxiety and depression. In the present study, the author examined the caregivers’ mental health and investigated the mediating role of social support between symptoms severity and parenting stress during COVID-19. During 20 March to 8 April 2020, 1932 caregivers of children and adolescents with ASD and other developmental disorders from China were enrolled to fill in a sociodemographic questionnaire, Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale and Social Support Rating Scale. The author also collected children's disability severity symptoms and behavioral problems.

The COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal study on the emotional-behavioral sequelae for children and adolescents with neuropsychiatric disorders and their families

Alessia Raffagnato; Sara Iannattone; Benedetta Tascini (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
This study aimed to investigate the immediate and short-term impact of the pandemic on the psychological well-being of Italian children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders and their families. Overall, 56 patients aged 6–18 (M = 13.4 years, SD = 2.77) and their parents were evaluated during the COVID-19 lockdown (T0) and after 4 months (T1). An ad hoc data sheet, Youth Self-Report 11–18 (YSR), Child Behavior Checklist 6–18 (CBCL), and Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) were administered. Patients, mainly suffering from internalizing disorders, overall demonstrated a good adaptation to the pandemic context. Moreover, patients with behavioral disorders showed a greater psychological discomfort at both T0 and T1 compared to patients with internalizing disorders.
‘We have been in lockdown since he was born’: a mixed methods exploration of the experiences of families caring for children with intellectual disability during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK

Jeanne Wolstencroft; Laura Hull; Lauren Warner (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: BMJ Open

This study aimed to explore the experiences of parents caring for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) during the UK national lockdown in spring 2020, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were identified using opportunity sampling from the IMAGINE-ID national (UK) cohort and completed an online survey followed by a semistructured interview. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Interviews were conducted over the telephone in July 2020 as the first UK lockdown was ending. 23 mothers of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities aged 5–15 years were recruited.

Functioning of children and adolescents with Down syndrome and the association with environmental barriers and facilitators during the COVID-19 pandemic

Beatriz Helena Brugnaro; Olaf Kraus De Camargo; Carolina Corsi (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: Journal of Intellectual Disabilities

This study aims to compare functioning and environmental aspects before and during physical distancing (DPD) and to determine which social, physical, behavioral and functioning aspects of DPD are correlated. Sixteen parents of children/adolescents with Down syndrome (11.38 ± 3.00 years) were surveyed before and DPD. Paired t-tests were used to compare functioning and environmental aspects before and DPD and chi-square tests were used to test associations.

SARS-CoV-2 screening testing in schools for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Michael R. Sherby; Tyler J. Walsh; Albert M. Lai (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools primarily for typically developing children is rare. However, less is known about transmission in schools for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), who are often unable to mask or maintain social distancing. The objectives of this study were to determine SARS-CoV-2 positivity and in-school transmission rates using weekly screening tests for school staff and students and describe the concurrent deployment of mitigation strategies in six schools for children with IDD.
Brief report: impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Asian American families with children with developmental disabilities

Sarah Dababnah; Irang Kim; Yao Wang (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, even prior to the pandemic, little research explored the experiences of Asian American families of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. This brief report summarizes the results of a survey conducted between May and July 2020, in the immediate aftermath of state and local lockdowns due to the pandemic. Twenty-five Asian American caregivers of children with autism and other developmental disabilities completed the survey and reported on the pandemic’s impact on their household. Most of the caregivers were mothers, immigrants, Chinese, raising children with autism, and highly educated. Participants’ primary concerns were the disruption of their children’s educational and therapeutic services. We discuss research limitations and implications.
COVID-19 and UK family carers: policy implications

Juliana Onwumere; Cathy Creswell; Gill Livingston (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: The Lancet Psychiatry

Informal (unpaid) carers are an integral part of all societies and the health and social care systems in the UK depend on them. Despite the valuable contributions and key worker status of informal carers, their lived experiences, wellbeing, and needs have been neglected during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Health Policy brings together a broad range of clinicians, researchers, and people with lived experience as informal carers to share their thoughts on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK carers, many of whom have felt abandoned as services closed. It focuses on the carers of children and young people and adults and older adults with mental health diagnoses, and carers of people with intellectual disability or neurodevelopmental conditions across different care settings over the lifespan. It provides policy recommendations with the aim of improving outcomes for all carers.

Community-based parent-training for disruptive behaviors in children with ASD using synchronous telehealth services: a pilot study

Nathaniel A. Shanok; Erin Brooker Lozott; Marlene Sotelo (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
This study conducted a feasibility pilot of the RUBI parent training program (RUBI PT) delivered virtually with children with ASD and disruptive behaviors in a diverse community sample. Twenty-nine children (age M = 5.79, SD = 3.56) were enrolled for the direct, telehealth delivered program. Twenty-four families completed the program (82.8 %) and 85.3 % of core sessions were attended. Four of the five families who dropped out were participating during the COVID-19 pandemic and cited this as the reason for discontinuing. The feasibility of the program for reducing problem behaviors in the home setting was consistent with prior RUBI PT studies. Future implementation of synchronous telehealth PT is encouraged as this format will enable more families to access this service, especially in underserved communities.
COVID-19 and the acceleration of behavioral parent training telehealth: current status and future directions

Alexandra D. W. Sullivan; Rex Forehand; Juliana Acosta (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: Cognitive and Behavioral Practice
The SARS CO-V-2 (COVID-19) pandemic and associated social distancing guidelines have accelerated the telehealth transition in mental health. For those providing Behavioral Parent Training (BPT), this transition has called for moving sessions that are traditionally clinic-based, active, and directive to engaging, supporting, and treating families of children with behavior disorders remotely in their homes. Whereas many difficulties accompany this transition, the lessons learned during the current public health crisis have the potential to transform BPT service delivery on a large scale in ways that address many of its long-standing limitations. This study describes both challenges and opportunities and consider the possibilities inherent in a large scale BPT service delivery model capable of increasing the reach and impact of evidence-based treatment for all families.
Poor mental health in caregivers of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and Its relationships with caregivers’ difficulties in managing the children’s behaviors and worsened psychological symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hui-Wen Tseng; Ching-Shu Tsai; Yu-Min Chen (et al.)

Published: September 2021   Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has thrown out a challenge to caregivers of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The present study examined the factors related to the poor general mental health state of the caregivers of children with ADHD during the COVID-19 pandemic, including (1) difficulties of caregivers in asking their child to adopt protective behaviors against COVID-19, (2) difficulties of caregivers in managing the child’s daily performance, and (3) worsened psychological symptoms in children. In total, 161 caregivers completed an online questionnaire to provide data regarding their general mental health state and difficulties in asking their child with ADHD to adopt protective behaviors against COVID-19 and in managing the child’s after-school learning, sleep routine, and internet use, as well as worsened psychological symptoms. The results of multivariate logistic regression analysis demonstrated that caregivers’ difficulties in managing ADHD children’s self-protective behaviors and after-school learning and the children’s worsened emotional symptoms were significantly associated with poor caregiver general mental health state. An intervention that enhances the mental health of caregivers of children with ADHD during the COVID-19 pandemic by addressing their difficulties in managing the children’s behaviors and psychological problems is warranted.
The relationship between irritability and autism symptoms in children with ASD in COVID-19 home confinement period

Serhat Türkoğlu; Halit Necmi Uçar; Fatih Hilmi Çetin (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: International Journal of Clinical Practice

This study investigated the impact of COVID-19 home confinement on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms and irritability in children and adolescents with ASD. The study participants included 46 drug-naive children aged 4-17 years diagnosed with ASD. Parents of the participants completed the Autism Behaviour Checklist (AuBC) and Affective Reactivity Index (ARI) scales for both normal conditions and COVID-19 home confinement.

Behavioural improvements in children with autism spectrum disorder after participation in an adapted judo programme followed by deleterious effects during the COVID-19 lockdown

Jose Morales; David H. Fukuda; Vanessa Garcia (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
The public health lockdown prompted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which included school closures that may have potentially serious consequences for people with disabilities or special educational needs, disrupted an ongoing adapted judo training intervention in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The purpose of this study was to compare repetitive behaviours, social interaction, social communication, emotional responses, cognitive style and maladaptive speech scores across four time-points: baseline, after an eight-week control period, after an eight-week judo intervention and after an eight-week lockdown period due to COVID-19.
Parental self-efficacy and behavioral problems in children with autism during COVID-19: a moderated mediation model of parenting stress and perceived social support

Shu Dan Chen; Yun Yu; Xing Kai Li (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: Psychology Research and Behavior Management
COVID-19 pandemic has been verified as a public health emergency of international concern. During the special period, the health of vulnerable groups, such as children with autism, should be concerned. Some studies have been carried out to investigate the behavioral problems of children with autism during the COVID-19, but underlying mechanisms behind it is not clear. This study examines the role of parenting stress as a mediator in the relationship between parental self-efficacy and behavioral problems in Chinese children as well as the role of perceived social support as a moderator for this mediation effect. A total of 439 parents of children with autism (mean age=40.17, SD=5.26) were surveyed and completed five questionnaires (Conners Parent Symptom Questionnaire, Parental Self-Efficacy Questionnaire, Parenting Stress Index-Short Form 15, Perceived Social Support Questionnaire, and Neuroticism Extraversion Openness Five Factor Inventory). The statistical analyses were conducted by SPSS 26.0 and SPSS PROCESS macro.
Experience of autistic children and their families during the pandemic: from distress to coping strategies

Claudine Jacques; Geneviève Saulnier; Agnès Éthier (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
To understand the perspectives and needs of autistic children and their families in the context of an emergency, 109 parents and 56 autistic children (5.75–18 years) from Canada completed an online survey about needs, barriers and facilitators to coping with the pandemic. Parents’ concerns about their child’s development and difficulties managing their child’s behaviors before and during pandemic were significantly associated. Parents identified maintaining social relationships and implementing appropriate interventions to their child’s characteristics as facilitators during the pandemic. Both children and parents identified lack of socialization as a main difficulty. Among children, 92.9% associated electronic devices with their well-being. This study highlighted the need to consider the child’s autistic characteristics and interests to implement emergency accommodations and services.
Parental stress and disability in offspring: a snapshot during the COVID-19 pandemic

Martina Siracusano; Assia Riccioni; Leonardo Emberti Gialloreti (et al.)

Published: August 2021   Journal: Brain Sciences
Parenting a child with a disability, such as neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic syndromes, implies a high level of stress. During the COVID-19 outbreak—as a period implying additional challenges—few studies have specifically investigated caregivers’ distress among neurodevelopmental disabilities. The objective of the study is to investigate whether during the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of parental stress differs between four disability groups including neurodevelopmental disorders (autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)) and genetic syndromes (Rett syndrome (RTT), Sotos syndrome (SS)) in comparison to families with typical development offspring (TD). In total, 220 Italian parents of children affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities (74 ASD, 51 ADHD, 34 SS, 21 RTT, 40 TD; age M 9.4 ± SD 4.2) underwent a standardized evaluation for stress related to parenting through the self-report questionnaire,
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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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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.