Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Parents/carers of children aged 4-10 years of age reported that over a one-month period in lockdown, they saw increases in their child’s emotional difficulties, such as feeling unhappy, worried, being clingy and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry.

Image shows cartoon drawing of body parts resembling emotional, behavioural and restlessness and attention difficulties. It reads the caption above: "Parents/carers of primary school age children taking part in the survey report and increase in their child's..." with reference to the images below.

Early results from the Co-SPACE study, which asks parents/carers about their children’s mental health through the COVID-19 crisis, show:

  • Parents/carers of primary school age children taking part in the survey report an increase in their child’s emotional, behavioural, and restless/attentional difficulties.
  • Parents/carers of secondary school age children report a reduction in their child’s emotional difficulties, but an increase in restless/attentional behaviours.
  • Adolescents taking part in the survey report no change in their own emotional or behavioural, and restless/attentional difficulties.
  • Parents/carers of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and those with a pre-existing mental health difficulty report a reduction in their child’s emotional difficulties and no change in behavioural or restless/attentional difficulties. 

Table shows the difficulties of children's and adolescents behaviour, emotion and restlessness impact from COVID-19.

More than 10,000 parents have now taken part in the Co-SPACE (COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics) survey led by experts at the University of Oxford.

Parents/carers also reported that their children’s behaviour had got worse over time, with an increase in behaviours such as temper tantrums, arguments and children not doing what they are asked. Parents/carers in the survey also reported that their children showed greater levels of restlessness/fidgety behaviour and difficulties concentrating over the one month period.

Perhaps surprisingly, the same pattern was not seen in the older age group of 11-16 year olds. Teenagers themselves reported no change in their emotional difficulties between the two time points and their parents/carers reported that they felt that their child’s emotional difficulties had actually improved. Neither teenagers nor their parents reported any changes in their behaviour over this time but parents felt that their children were more restless and had more difficulty concentrating over time.

Tom Madders, Campaigns Director at YoungMinds, said, 'This research suggests that many younger children have found it increasingly hard to cope as the lockdown period has gone on, which may be because of loneliness, fears about the coronavirus or a loss of the routines and support that come with school. The picture appears to be more variable for older children in this study. Following the anxiety and uncertainty of going into lockdown, some are likely to have found the restrictions more difficult as time has gone on, while others, including those who feel safe and secure at home, but who find school challenging, may have adapted well to their new reality. For those young people, going back to school after a long break may well be tough, and it's vital that there's a re-adjustment period where wellbeing is prioritised.

'It's also important to recognise that some of the most vulnerable young people in our society, including those who have experienced abuse, violence or neglect, are often the hardest to identify. We need to ensure that effective support is available for all children who need it now and as restrictions lift.'

 

Prioritising the mental health of children and young people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond is critical. These findings highlight that there is wide variation in how children and young people have been affected. Some sources of variation have been identified, but we need to continue to gain a better understanding of which families are struggling and what they need to help direct the right advice and support going forward to ensure that this does not have long-lasting consequences.Professor Cathy Creswell, Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.

The Co-SPACE (COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics) survey is still open for parents and carers to share their experiences. This research is tracking children and young people’s mental health throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Survey results are helping researchers identify what protects children and young people from deteriorating mental health, over time, and at particular stress points, and how this may vary according to child and family characteristics. This will help to identify what advice, support and help parents would find most useful.

This research is supported through UKRI Covid-19 Rapid Response funding, and by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, the Oxford and Thames Valley NIHR Applied Research Consortium and the UKRI Emerging Minds Network Plus.

This and other Co-SPACE reports can be found online at Emerging Minds.

Find out more about the UKRI Emerging Minds webinar series

NIHR OXFORD HEALTH BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE NEWS

Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.

Similar stories

What is the Role of Science in Mental Health?

A new summary report, What science has shown can help young people with anxiety and depression - Identifying and reviewing the 'active ingredients' of effective interventions, from Wellcome has been published. It includes new research from Oxford University, which investigates the knowns and unknowns of SSRI treatment (antidepressant drugs) in young people with depression and anxiety.

New Research Presented at the ECNP Conference - October 2021

Dr Angharad de Cates and Dr Liliana Capitão were just two of the department's researchers presenting and publishing new research at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Conference 2021, in Lisbon.

Researchers Address Mental Health Effects of the Pandemic on Young People

In a new policy briefing, a team of researchers at King’s College London and Oxford University highlight the multiple effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children and young people in the UK through their education and daily life, including challenges around social isolation, academic pressures, adjusting to online learning and coping with reopening of schools.

Turing Fellowships for Over 30 Oxford Academics

Professor John Geddes, WA Handley-elect Chair of Psychiatry, is one of the thirty-three University of Oxford researchers, which have been named Turing Fellows for the 2021/22 academic year.

Simple Intervention Effectively Treats Depression During COVID 19

New research shows that even a very simple intervention, administered by non-specialists with just 15 hours of training, can effectively treat depression during COVID-19.

Over a Third of COVID-19 Patients Diagnosed with at Least One Long-COVID Symptom

A new study from the University of Oxford and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) investigated long-COVID in over 270,000 people recovering from COVID-19 infection, using data from the US-based TriNetX electronic health record network.