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Changes in child mental health throughout the UK’s first COVID-19 national lockdown

Examining changes in parent-reported child and adolescent mental health throughout the UK’s first COVID-19 national lockdown.

This paper aimed to understand how the mental health of children and adolescents changed throughout the UK’s first lockdown between the end of March and July 2020. We also aimed to identify which children were particularly vulnerable to experiencing poorer mental health throughout lockdown.

Key Findings:

  • Overall, the average levels of hyperactivity and conduct problems increased over time however, emotional symptoms remained relatively stable but declined somewhat between June and July.
  • Certain factors such as the child’s age, whether they had siblings or Special Educational Needs (SEN)/ Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ND) affected these overall patterns. For example, children with SEN/ND experienced an overall reduction in their mental health symptoms however their symptoms still remained elevated compared to those children without SEN/ND throughout lockdown.
  • On the other hand, children without siblings compared to those with siblings, experienced a greater increase in symptoms between March/April and May before experiencing a reduction between June and July.
  • Younger children showed a similar pattern where they experienced an increase between Mar/Apr and May followed by a reduction between June and July.
  • We were also able to identify subgroups of children who experienced very different patterns of mental health symptoms over time. For example, while many children experienced stable low symptoms, others experienced elevated symptoms throughout or experienced an increase in symptoms by July.
  • Children in these elevated groups were more likely to have a parent/carer with higher levels of psychological distress, to have SEN/ND, to be younger in age, or to come from low-income families.
Download the preprint here.