Psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: Identifying mental health problems and supporting wellbeing in vulnerable children and families

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Psychology

Abstract

There is an urgent need to understand and mitigate the psychological and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown on primary school children. This is especially important for those known to be vulnerable. Children with emotional, cognitive, developmental and social vulnerabilities can already be identified in primary schools. The mental health consequences of school closure, social isolation, increased financial and emotional stress, and greater exposure to family conflict are likely to be particularly pronounced for this high-risk group.

Data from immediately prior to the pandemic are needed to provide robust assessments of the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable children. This proposed study capitalises on an ongoing study of 300 primary school children (4-7 years) identified as "at-risk" for mental health problems by teachers. Our study collected rich social, cognitive and mental health data prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our aim is to re-assess this cohort, now aged 5 to 10 years, remotely, during the pandemic and again later in the academic year to evaluate the social and emotional impacts of COVID-19 and identify how negative consequences can be mitigated. We will also be able to assess longer term impacts because this cohort has consented to life-long health, social care and education record linkage.

Understanding the immediate psychological and social consequences for vulnerable children and families is not only important for research; it is essential for rapid development of policies and interventions to mitigate the mental health problems and provide support to families during and after lockdown.

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