246 – COVID-19 affects parent-child relationships and preschoolers’ social adaptation in China

Presentation - ECV2022-246

COVID-19 affects parent-child relationships and preschoolers’ social adaptation in China

Wanjuan Weng, Shanghai Normal University, China (1000442418@smail.shnu.edu.cn)
Xiaoyun Li, Shanghai Normal University, China (1000510512@smail.shnu.edu.cn)
Shumin Wang, Shanghai Normal University, China (1000529027@smail.shnu.edu.cn)
Yan Li, Shanghai Normal University, China (liyan@shnu.edu.cn)

Background: Since March 2022, millions of children in Shanghai have been confined to their homes and restricted to face-to-face activities due to the local COVID restrictions, fundamentally changing the dynamics of parent-child relations.

Aim: This study examined the association between parent-child relations and preschoolers’ behaviour problems in the context of COVID-19. Specifically, the study investigated the effect of parent-child conflicts on the development of children’s behaviour problems when the city was under lockdown.

Method: This study provides a direct comparison of reported parent-child conflict relationships before and during the pandemic using 1:1 propensity score matching (PSM) on a pre-and peri-pandemic sample of preschoolers from Shanghai, China. One set of data came from preschoolers who stayed at home during the lockdown in Shanghai (primarily May 2022, N=1249), and matched with the control group, a group of preschoolers who did not impose a social lockdown in Shanghai (on average in 2020, N=900). Their mothers completed anonymous online surveys, i.e., the parent-child relationship questionnaire and the strengths and difficulties questionnaire. Groups (n=297 in each) were matched on demographics and socioeconomic status to determine COVID-19’s unique contribution to the parent-child relationship and children’s behaviour problems.

Results: Compared with the control group, the parent-child conflicts in COVID-19 had a greater negative impact on preschool children’s behaviour problems. A path mediation model revealed that the parent-child conflict relationship mediated the relationship between the study group and social adaptation. Specifically, more parent-child conflict was associated with more emotional symptoms (β = .49, p < .001), conduct problems (β = .61, p < .001), including hyperactivity-inattention (β = .42, p < .001), peer problems (β = .40, p < .001), and less prosocial behaviour (β =- .42, p < .001).

Conclusions: COVID-19 is a major stressor for families. This work confirmed the increase in the expectation of parent-child conflicts among preschool children during the COVID-19 period which influenced children’s social adaptation in all aspects. Therefore, specific interventions are needed to prevent parent-child conflict relationship and improve children’s adaptation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Implications for children and families: Be aware of potential conflicts between you and your child and understand the potential results of these conflicts on your child’s behaviour during lockdown situations.

Implications for practitioners: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on families will help you to provide better intervention programs and suggestions to support parent-child relationships  during the epidemic.

Key words: COVID-19; families’ voices, wellbeing, parent-child relationships, preschoolers, behaviour problems

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Scroll to Top