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Parenting under pressure: A mixed-methods investigation of the impact of COVID-19 on family life

APA Citation:

Chu, K. A., Schwartz, C., Towner, E., Kasparian, N. A., & Callaghan, B. (2021). Parenting under pressure: A mixed-methods investigation of the impact of COVID-19 on family life. Journal of Affective Disorders, 5, 100161. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadr.2021.100161

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study used writing prompts to examine children’s (n = 43) and parents’ (n = 56) perceptions of the positive and negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents also reported on their emotions both before and after writing. All writings were analyzed to identify the pandemic’s effects on families; parental responses were further analyzed to see if those who reported gratitude (i.e., positive pandemic effects, such as closer family relationships) experienced improvements in their emotional wellbeing. Parents whose writing expressed gratitude reported less negative emotion.


Mental health
Physical health

Subject Affiliation:



School age (6 - 12 yrs)
Adolescence (13 - 17 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)


Longitudinal Study
Quantitative Study
Qualitative Study


Chu, Kristen A., Schwartz, Chloe, Towner, Emily, Kasparian, Nadine A., Callaghan, Bridget


Background development and implementation of effective family-based psychosocial intervention and treatment strategies during COVID-19 will require a detailed understanding of how the virus has impacted the lives of families. Methods written reports on the life impacts of COVID-19 for parents (n = 56) and their children (n = 43), and a questionnaire assessing parent positive and negative affect, were collected between April and May 2020. An inductive approach was used to identify themes in written reports, followed by statistical analysis to explore associations between themes and changes in parent positive and negative affect pre- and post-writing. Results parents and children reported both positive and negative psychosocial impacts of the virus, though parents expressed a greater diversity of positive themes than children. Common themes reported by parents included concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their children, health concerns for others, and the stressful balancing act of parenting, assisting with children's school work, and working from home. Many parents reported gratitude, and reflected on the upsides of the pandemic for family relationships and parent-child bonding. Parents who expressed gratitude reported a decrease in negative affect pre- to post-writing. Common child-reported themes included yearning to return to school, pandemic-related fears, and longing for social connection. Limitations the sample included a cross-section of mostly White (non-Hispanic), dual income, well-educated mothers, primarily from the United States. Conclusions both parents and children reported reduced wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future research should focus on identifying how to fulfill children's social needs and lessen caregivers’ burdens during this time.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Elsevier Science

Publication Type:

REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, University of California, KAC
Department of Psychology, University of California, CS
University of Cambridge, ET
Cincinnati Children's Center for Heart Disease and Mental Health, Heart Institute and Division of Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, NAK
Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, NAK
Department of Psychology, University of California, BC


child, COVID-19, mixed-methods, pandemic, parent, qualitative

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

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