COVID-19 and the associated “Circuit Breaker” represent forms of adversity. Unfortunately, adversity predicts caregiving practices, which, in turn, affect children’s social relationships, psychological well-being, and school performance. Still, although such “big picture” associations are well-documented, in normal circumstances, it is hard to identify responses to specific and newly-encountered adversity because stressors are usually chronic and interrelated.
Because COVID-19 had an impact on everyone, and as the “Circuit Breaker” was implemented for a specific period in time, there are unique opportunities to address the what’s, how’s, and when’s of adversity, family-life, and child development.
First, we can better understand what pre-existing risks interact with adversity to impact parenting, and use this information to create interventions that take into account unique pre-existing sources of strength and challenges. Second, we can increase our knowledge concerning how adversity-related changes in parenting influence young children, and assist service providers in determining which of the many potential pathways linking adversity to poor child outcomes should be targeted. Third, we can learn when in a child’s life adversity is most disruptive, and aid researchers, practitioners, and policymakers decide when to intervene.
In this work we will capitalize upon existing longitudinal research studies to examine the impact of a “universal” stressor- COVID-19, upon early life child development and family functioning. More precisely, we will examine the impact of COVID-19 related stress alongside data from longitudinal and/or cross-sectional research studies that have enrolled children at a variety of early life-stages. Important to all our hypotheses is the impact of COVID-19 stress on “sensitive” parenting and “secure attachment” relationships, with “sensitivity” referring to the degree to which parents attend to and respond to children’s needs and interests, and “secure attachment” indicating relationships in which parents and children interactively convey feelings concerning expectations for comfort, safety, and exploration.