Study proposed on emotional impact of COVID-19 on young children

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) - University of Kentucky researchers are inviting parents and primary caregivers to take part in a study about the emotional impact of COVID-19 on young children and their families.


Dr. Meghan Marsac, a pediatric psychologist and assistant professor of pediatrics, is leading the U.S.  in an international study to determine the needs of parents and families who have preschool aged children 1-5, during the coronavirus pandemic.


She and her colleagues say they want to learn more about how it has impacted families with young children and how programming and support interventions can be developed to address their needs.


“In much of our research, these children are often overlooked," Marsac said. “They aren’t able to communicate their needs as well, and their struggles tend to come out in different ways, particularly behaviorally.”


The researchers will also study what stresses parents as they navigate the uncertainty of prolonged quarantine isolation, and how they are managing their needs and emotional health.  By learning from the parents, pediatricians and mental health professionals can better advocate for the needs of children.


“Parents are key influencers,” she said.  “Kids who are preschool age really pick up on their parents’ stress. As part of the study, we’ll ask about their children and their behavior, but we’ll also be asking about the parents to find out specific things we need to do to support them.”


Marsac says over the last several months, she and her colleagues have been acutely aware of the struggle parents face, both as parents themselves and in the patients they treat. 


Healthcare providers report seeing young children exhibit more tantrums, sleep problems and are worrying more.  There are concerns that these behavior issues will intensify, as families prepare to either not go back to school or go back to school in a non-traditional capacity.


“Kids this young notice when things are different,” said Marsac. “They do really well with routine when they know what to expect.  And as adults, it’s hard because we don’t know what to expect, so we can’t give them the security we normally could give them. They don’t know there’s a pandemic, but they do know they can’t go to the playground or play with friends.”


Parents participating in the study have the choice of completing one set of questions now, or to receive more sets of questions over the next twelve months.  Researchers can observe how the home dynamics and family needs shift over time.


Parents and primary caregivers of a child ages 1-5 years old can enroll in the study by going to: https://redcap.uky.edu/redcap/surveys/?s=HCKJX8FR3R.

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