Parents and young children report greater levels of psychological distress throughout third national lockdown

Both parents and young children’s mental health has worsened throughout the third national lockdown, academics have revealed.

The findings, published by Oxford University, forms part of the nationwide Covid-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents and Children in Epidemics (Co-SPACE) study.

According to the paper, parental stress, depression, and anxiety increased “again” after the third round of national restrictions were imposed in England.

Like the first iterations, the third lockdown prevented individuals from leaving the home with few exceptions.

The study of over 6,000 parents found that during November and December, adults reported a greater number of mental health symptoms, such as difficulty relaxing, being easily upset or agitated, feeling hopeless, lacking interest and pleasure, feeling fearful and worried, and being more irritable, over-reactive and impatient.

Commenting on the findings, Cathy Creswell, Professor of Clinical Developmental Psychology and co-lead of the Co-SPACE study, said: These findings build on others that suggested that parents were particularly vulnerable to distress during lockdown one.

“Our data highlight the particular strains felt by parents during lockdown when many feel that they have been spread too thin by the demands of meeting their children’s needs during the pandemic, along with home-schooling and work commitments. We are particularly concerned about the level of strain felt by parents in low income families, those in single parent families, and those supporting children with special educational needs.”

Children, too, experienced greater levels of psychological distress during the third national lockdown, the study found.

The research shows that primary school children, aged between four and 10, exhibited greater behavioural, emotional, and attentional difficulties compared to previous months, while children between the age of 11 and 17 reported more symptoms of unhappiness and worry.

Professor Creswell added: “We are really concerned that in our study population we have once again seen increases in mental health symptoms across emotional and behavioural domains in primary school children in January.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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