Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Family Dynamics in Economically Vulnerable Households

31 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2020

See all articles by Ariel Kalil

Ariel Kalil

University of Chicago

Susan Mayer

University of Chicago

Rohen Shah

University of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 5, 2020

Abstract

The COVID-19 crisis and its reverberations resulted in levels of economic distress unprecedented since the 1930s. But COVID was a seismic social shock even for families that lost no income, due at least in part to abrupt school closures and the widespread threat of illness and death. The COVID-19 crisis will not affect all families equally, but may cause particular harm to children of low-income and less-educated parents and for preschool age children, who are especially sensitive to developmental inputs. We surveyed 572 low income families with preschool-age children in Chicago to understand family dynamics following the economic and social restrictions imposed by the pandemic. We separately examine the associations between economic hardship, exposure to the virus, and pandemic-induced increases in childcare time on parental mental health and stress, parent-child interaction, and children’s adjustment. We find both positive and negative effects: Parental job and income losses are strongly associated with parents’ depressive symptoms, stress, diminished sense of hope, and negative interactions with children. However, these ill effects do not occur for parents who lose jobs but do not experience concomitant income losses. In fact, job losses without income losses are associated with more positive parent-child interactions. Parents’ exposure to COVID-19 is associated with less positive parent-child interactions and more child behavior problems. In contrast, parents who report spending substantially more time in childcare as a consequence of the pandemic report more positive parent-child interaction. We discuss the implications of these results for policy and practice.

Suggested Citation

Kalil, Ariel and Mayer, Susan and Shah, Rohen, Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Family Dynamics in Economically Vulnerable Households (October 5, 2020). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2020-143, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3706339 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3706339

Ariel Kalil (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Susan Mayer

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Rohen Shah

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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