The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), and Tufts Medical Center, surveyed 3000 parents and caregivers of children under the age of 18 in November 2020, March 2021, and July 2021 for a total of 9000 parents and caregivers. The survey measured the impact of the pandemic on family life, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and positive childhood experiences. Through the survey, parents’ and caregivers’ assessments of significant life changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were examined. Participants were asked how their financial, educational, and relational lives have changed for them and their children under 18. Results are intended to help understand the effects of the pandemic on families to assist the nation’s pediatricians and home visitors to better support families to promote positive childhood experiences and prevent ACEs.
Prior research has shown how ACEs can lead to health problems in adulthood, ranging from coronary heart disease to mood disorders and anxiety. However, recent reports show that positive childhood experiences (PCEs) can be protective against toxic stress. Toxic stress can be a biological result of negative experiences and can contribute to poor health outcomes. As many parents have experienced major employment and lifestyle changes since March of 2020, the impact on family life is especially critical to examine – losing employment or working from home with children, loss of income, school closures, and social isolation could lead to increases in stress for caregivers. In result, these changes could also contribute to adversities for children. However, families may be contributing to positive experiences for their children at home as well, buffering against the effects of toxic stress. This survey was intended to examine such experiences, both positive and negative, and how they have changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The project team developed the survey with items from various validated instruments. In addition, input was sought from a stakeholder group of pediatricians, researchers, home visitors, and parents. The project team worked with market research and data analytics company YouGov.com to collect responses from 9000 US parents and caregivers recruited from its internet panel of over 3 million US panelists. Panelist recruitment is designed to achieve a sample representative of demographics reported by US Census data. (Note: there should be caution in generalizing to the US population).
Parents/caregivers of children under 18 were asked a series of questions about their experiences since March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic lockdown began in most US states. By answering questions about their household finances, employment changes, disruptions to education or family services, factors that have caused stress, and positive and stress-relieving experiences, these parents/caregivers provide a snapshot of American families in the wake of the pandemic. Reports presenting preliminary results of the survey are provided and will be ongoing as further analyses occur.
Quotes from Survey Participants
“Honestly there hasn't been anything that has helped me throughout this period. When it comes to my children, my finances, everything. The pandemic has completely depleted my family of all of our savings.”
“Having my school age child as well as my two young adult children at home now has been a positive thing during this time of COVID-19. It has been helpful to talk to my friends and family as well, either over the phone or on Zoom or Facetime.”
The significant stress between me and my spouse both working from home while having a two-year-old with sensory and all this other challenging stuff and having a new sibling, has really taken a toll on, I think, everybody … It’s been hard to not have that extended family be able to come and help and just kind of lend their support.”
“Spending more time at home with my kids has brought us closer. Even though my wife and I might argue in front of them we try our very best to not let them see it. We spend more time with the kids and do things we didn't do before covid such as indoor learning activities and gardening just to name a few.”
The survey was supported by the Cooperative Agreement Number, NU38OT000282, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The content of the reports does not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by the CDC, or the U.S. Government.
American Academy of Pediatrics