Covid lockdowns had a ‘catastrophic’ impact on children’s social and emotional skills, half of parents say
- Youngsters aged four to seven more likely to be affected than 12- to 15-year-olds
Nearly half of parents said their children’s social and emotional skills got worse during the Covid-19 pandemic, a major study found.
Adults whose jobs were disrupted by the crisis, including those on furlough, were more likely to report that their offspring suffered development problems.
Youngsters aged between four and seven were significantly more likely (52 per cent) to be affected than 12- to 15-year-olds (42 per cent), the research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported.
Furiously responding to the findings, campaigners blamed Covid lockdowns and school closures for having a ‘catastrophic’ impact on Britain’s young.
The IFS surveyed 6,095 parents in England with children aged four to 16 about the impact of the first year of the pandemic.
Youngsters aged between four and seven were significantly more likely (52 per cent) to be affected than 12- to 15-year-olds (42 per cent), the research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported
Furiously responding to the findings, campaigners blamed Covid lockdowns and school closures for having a ‘catastrophic’ impact on Britain’s young
It found that nearly half (48 per cent) reported that their sons and daughters’ social and emotional skills deteriorated.
Children whose parents were furloughed were ‘significantly more likely to experience a worsening in their socio-emotional skills than those whose parents had not been furloughed (51 per cent versus 45 per cent)’.
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Researchers said the social and emotional skills of children whose parents had stable labour market experiences throughout the pandemic – whether that saw their parents employed or unemployed throughout – ‘held up better on average than the skills of children whose families faced more economic instability’.
But they found no evidence that children from disadvantaged families fared worse, in contrast to previous research looking at lost academic learning.
The IFS study was designed to screen for emotional or behavioural problems.
Questions focused on whether parents found their children to be ‘easily scared’, ‘constantly fidgeting or squirming’, or ‘generally obedient’.
Responding to the report, Arabella Skinner, of the parents’ campaign group UsForThem, said children became ‘collateral damage’ during the pandemic.
She said: ‘The pandemic policies did not take into consideration the impact on children.’
Ms Skinner added: ‘There were many occasions when warnings were ignored and children were in effect collateral damage.
‘It is an unavoidable fact that many of our children’s development has been negatively impacted by the pandemic restrictions.’
And she insisted: ‘The Government must take action now –they need to support all the services which support our children and ensure that this never happens again.’
Tory MP Esther McVey added: ‘We must now accept and learn from the extent of the damage school closures and lockdowns have caused.
Researchers said the social and emotional skills of children whose parents had stable labour market experiences throughout the pandemic – whether that saw their parents employed or unemployed throughout – ‘held up better on average than the skills of children whose families faced more economic instability’ (file image)
‘Not just to those at school or university at the time, but to babies born during lockdown and the toddlers who were isolated when groups and classes for those crucial early months were stopped and even parks and playgrounds were closed.
‘This was catastrophic and affected mental and physical wellbeing across the board.’
READ MORE: Ministers were given stark warning that more children would die from suicide than from contracting Covid-19 if they shut schools, report reveals
The findings come a year after Ofsted’s chief inspector raised concerns about the lingering impacts of the coronavirus pandemic upon children.
In 2022, Amanda Spielman reported an increasing number of young children unable to understand facial expressions – which is thought to have been a side-effect of fewer social interactions.
She also found that fewer children had learned to use the toilet independently, compared to equivalent figures reported prior to the pandemic.
Andrew McKendrick, IFS research economist and the new report’s author, said: ‘During the Covid-19 pandemic, children from all backgrounds saw their social and emotional skills worsen considerably.
‘Children lived through many changes during these years: school closures, lack of contact with friends and family, and potentially devastating severe illness or death among loved ones.
‘Our research shows that another important driver of children’s declining skills was the economic disruptions experienced by their parents, whether or not those disruptions led to a large income loss.’
Mr McKendrick explained: ‘With the cost-of-living crisis currently hitting many families’ budgets, our findings are a reminder that economic uncertainty can have multi-generational impacts.’
Following the publication of the damning study, Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza said: ‘I am deeply concerned by the findings of this research on children’s social and emotional skills.
‘This study shows that the disruption the pandemic caused to children’s development has been long-lasting.
‘It is vital that the right social and emotional support is made available to allow children the chance to recover and go on to achieve all that they want to.’
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