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COVID-19 research to evaluate impact of public health responses to pandemic on children

Christian Connell, associate professor of human development and family studies and associate director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, has been funded by the Social Science Research Institute and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences for his project “Impact of COVID-19 Social Distancing Response on Family Wellbeing and Child Safety.” 

Connell and his collaborator, Michael Strambler, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, will conduct survey-based research to evaluate the relationship between COVID-19 related stressors, including direct exposure, school and work closures, and social distancing, and parents’ stress levels associated with parenting responsibilities and economic strain. The study will also address the effects of these stressors on parents’ discipline practices or care of their children that could adversely impact child safety and wellbeing. 

This information will provide critical insight into how best to support vulnerable children and their families during national crises. 

“Social distancing measures, including school and childcare closures, are essential to the public health response, but they also result in children spending more time at home,” said Connell.  “Parents are coping with a broad range of caregiving, employment, and economic stressors, and these conditions could increase risk of child maltreatment incidents going undetected.  Our study will help to understand the extent of family adversity and strain on parents, so we can best allocate resources to support parents and families under these conditions.” 

As part of Penn State’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences has awarded seed-funding for COVID-19 projects university-wide. The projects span six core research areas, including social sciences, which address how COVID-19 has shaped health care messaging, public policy, and mental health beyond the immediate health impacts of the virus. For more information, visit Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences COVID-19 Research Response.