Abstract: Caregiving in the Context of COVID-19: National Survey Findings (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Caregiving in the Context of COVID-19: National Survey Findings

Friday, January 13, 2023
Maryvale A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Bart Klika, PhD, Research Director, Prevent Child Abuse America
Tammy Hurley, Senior Manager, American Academy of Pediatrics, Itasca, IL
Robert Sege, MD/PhD, Professor, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA
Background & Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic increased stress for caregivers (Brown, Doom, Lechuga-Pena, Enos Watamura, & Koppels, 2020). Research demonstrates that stress is associated with negative discipline and other forms of violence like child abuse and neglect (Fortson et al., 2016). During the COVID-19 pandemic, caregivers reported increased mental health challenges, social isolation, and unemployment, all of which have been linked to child abuse and neglect (Lee, Ward, Chang, & Downing, 2021; Lee, Ward, Lee, & Rodriguez, 2021). Many of the surveys of caregiving during the pandemic have included small samples and/or have been regionally based. The current analysis builds upon prior survey work from the COVID-19 pandemic by reporting findings from a set of national surveys, including 9,000 US adults, on caregiving during the pandemic. The questions guiding the current presentation are:

  1. How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact family functioning and well-being?
  2. What factors predict the use of harsh discipline by caregivers?

Methods: National surveys of adults over the age of 18 years were conducted in November 2021, March 2021, and July 2021 using an opt-in internet panel through yougov.com. Each survey included 3,000 adults, for an overall sample of 9,000 across the 3 surveys. Participants were asked questions regarding financial impacts of COVID-19, employment arrangements, use of governmental resources/programs, self-reported feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as use of various discipline strategies. Descriptive and multivariate analysis was conducted using SPSS.

Results: Nearly half of respondents experienced employment changes during the pandemic. Forty percent of respondents reported negative financial effects associated with the pandemic and 49% reported accessing governmental resources since the start of the pandemic. Spanking as a form of discipline was reported by 16% of respondents although a high percentage of respondents reported using positive discipline strategies with their children. Despite reporting high levels of stress during the pandemic, approximately 60% of respondents reported growing closer to their children during the pandemic. Disaggregated descriptive findings will be presented to show how the effects of COVID-19 were not equally experienced across key demographic groups (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender).

In multivariate models, intimate partner violence and parents own ACE score was associated with the use of spanking in the home. Interestingly, the more positive discipline strategies reported by a caregiver was associated with increased use of spanking.

Conclusions & Implications: From a national sample of 9,000 adults, we document the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on caregiving and indicators of family well-being. Further, we provide evidence for the factors associated with harsh caregiving.

Caregivers continue to experience the physical, social, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Policy response to supporting families recover from the COVID-19 pandemic should focus on concrete and economic supports in the form of paid family leave (Klevens et al., 2016), tax credits (Klevens et al., 2017; Kovski et al., 2021), and childcare supports (Ha, Collins, & Martino, 2015; Maguire-Jack et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2019; Yang & Maguire-Jack, 2016), all of which have been shown to reduce abusive caregiving.