Changes in Children's Behavioral Health and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Emily Hanno, Jorge Cuartas, Luke Miratrix, Stephanie Jones, and Nonie Lesaux. 10/3/2021. “Changes in Children's Behavioral Health and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics . Publisher's Version


Objective: The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and associated public health measures have influenced all aspects of life for children and families. In this study, we examine changes in children's behavioral health and families' well-being at the start of the pandemic.

Method: We used longitudinal data on 2880 children from 1 US state collected over 3 waves to compare family and child well-being before and after a state-wide stay-at-home advisory set in March 2020. We descriptively examined levels and changes in 4 child behavioral health outcomes (externalizing, internalizing, adaptive, and dysregulated behaviors) and 4 family well-being outcomes (parental mental health, parental stress, parent-child relationship conflict, and household chaos) across the preshutdown and postshutdown periods. Fixed effects regression models were used to predict within-child and within-family differences in preshutdown and postshutdown outcomes.

Results: Fixed effects analyses showed children's externalizing (0.09 points; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.05-0.13), internalizing (0.04 points; 95% CI, 0.01-0.08), and dysregulated (0.11 points; 95% CI, 0.06-0.16) behaviors increased after the shutdown, whereas children's adaptive behaviors declined (-0.10 points; 95% CI, -0.15 to -0.05). Parental mental health issues (0.22 points; 95% CI, 0.17-0.27), parental stress (0.08 points; 95% CI, 0.03-0.12), parent-child relationship conflict (0.10 points; 95% CI, 0.04-0.16), and household chaos (0.10 points; 95% CI, 0.05-0.14) all increased relative to preshutdown levels.

Conclusion: Many children experienced declines in behavioral health and many families experienced declines in well-being in the early months of the public health crisis, suggesting the need for family-focused and child-focused policies to mitigate these changes.