Impact on Family Life During Covid19 Pandemic
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Barnardos has been providing essential social care and family support services to over 1,700 families.
The purpose of this survey was to help us understand the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on children and families across Ireland. The survey focused on the Heart, Body, Mind and Wellbeing. There were 15 questions, primarily based on the experiences of families that Barnardos were working with during the pandemic. The survey included the standardised outcome measure - ‘Family Life Satisfaction Scale’ . All responses were anonymous. The online survey was active for a period of one week in May 2020.
Summary of Survey Results
A total of 2,683 people responded to this survey during this period. 1,731 (65%) had children under 18. 64% of respondents were aged between 35 and 54 (evenly split between 35-44 age group and 45-54 age group). The vast majority of respondents were married or co-habiting (66%), followed by lone parents (11%).
Impact on children
- Of families with children under 18, 1,453 (83.9%) reported their children missed seeing their friends
- 1,173 (67.8%) reported that their child misses school. Of those:
- 52.9% reported that bedtime routine was more difficult than usual
- 37.9% were experiencing more tantrums or outbursts from their child
- 37.6% were struggling to implement house rules
- 33.2% reported their child was arguing more with them
- 30.9% reported their child having more pent up energy
- 27.5% reported their child to be fighting more with siblings
- Those most likely to indicate that their child is missing school was co-habiting parents (69.4%), compared to 59.8% of lone parents.
- Children were reportedly more concerned about family members contracting Covid-19, than they were about themselves contracting the virus (459, 26.5% compared to 277, 16%). This may have been directly linked to the reporting of Covid-19 and how children perceived their responsibility for protecting vulnerable family members.
One respondent, a grandmother, commented:
The boys are extremely stressed …. They are terrified I will be infected by them or others and will die. The total focus everywhere on the virus is really upsetting children, irrespective of their circumstances, it is adding stress. My boys write emails to me a week ago begging me not to go out or speak to anyone… Children need reassurance at all levels.
- Of families with children under 18, 200 (11.6%) reported that their child was having more bad dreams than usual, of these:
- 70.5% reported that bedtime routine was more difficult than usual
- 63.5% were experiencing more tantrums or outbursts from their child
- 53.5% were struggling to implement house rules
- 49% reported their child was arguing more with them
- 47.5% reported their child having more pent up energy
- 34% reported their child to be fighting more with siblings
- 28% reported their child is frightened of physical contact with others.
- 158 (9.1%) respondents indicated that their child’s worry or anxiety had resulted in aches and pains.
Feeling physically or emotionally disconnected
- 2,029 (76%) respondents reported missing physical contact. Of families with children under 18, those co-parenting but living apart were most likely to report missing physical contact (84.1%).
- Parents with teenagers were more likely to be missing physical contact than families with younger children (33.2% compared to 14.7% with children aged 0-5, or 13.1% with children aged 6-10).
- 1,712 (64%) experiencing ups and downs during the restrictions
- 908 (33.8%) people reported feeling emotionally disconnected from family or friends. Of families with children under 18, lone parents were most likely to report feeling emotionally disconnected (45.3%), followed by those who are co-parenting but living apart (42%), compared to 30.6% of co-habiting parents
One respondent commented:
“I had an aunt pass away with Covid-19, while my husband was in isolation with symptoms, it was hard as I am and come from a huggy family and I found it hard not being able to comfort my dad and my relations, no wake , no funeral, just can't wait to the 20km comes so I can visit her grave”
Similar to this quote, although not specifically asked in the survey, the challenges associated with bereavement and loss became apparent through comments left by respondents. This is clearly an area of need that should be resourced appropriately to support those experiencing loss - without the usual community and family supports that would ‘normally’ be available.
Tensions at home.
- 589 respondents (22%) reported tensions at home. This rose to 26.6% for those with children under 18 at home.
- More women than men reported experiencing tensions at home (23% vs 15.4%).
- Those with children were more likely to be more irritated (26.1%) compared to 21.2% who did not have children, particularly if families had younger children (37%).
- Of families with children under 18 reporting tensions at home:
- 59.4% was finding the bedtime routine more difficult
- 53.1% indicated their child was arguing with them more than usual
- 51.6% were finding it difficult to implement house rules
- 51.4% were experiencing tantrums or outbursts from their children
- 40.6% reported their child having pent up energy
- 38% reported their child was fighting with their siblings more than usual
One respondent commented:
Our family are closer but have had a rollercoaster of ups and downs emotionally. There have been tensions with my child's other parent who doesn't live with us.
Lone parents and those with young children, most likely to feel the pressure of Covid-19 restrictions
- 1,410 (52.6%) respondents were worried about other family members health and this was fairly consistent across family structure, although lone parents were most likely to be worried about others health (57.5%).
- 1,026 (38.2%) reported feeling down about not seeing friends and again more ‘co-parenting but living apart’ or ‘lone parents’ reported this (50.6% and 43.1% respectively).
- 825 (30.7%) of respondents reported exercising less. 36.3% of lone parents were exercising less, compared to 29.7% of co-habiting couples. Parents with children aged 0-5 were most likely to be exercising less (37.8%).
- Of those exercising less, 39.5% also reported feeling less motivated to exercise because they missed the routine or social interaction of the gym, sports, or classes.
- 667 (25%) survey respondents reported feeling sad or low. Those ‘co-parenting but living apart’ or ‘lone parents’ were most likely to report feeling sad or low (31% and 28% respectively).
- Of families with children under 18, 35.9% of lone parents and 33.3% of those co-parenting but living apart reported sleeping less. Of those sleeping less, 51.2% said it was impacting their mood. More lone parents reported that changes to sleeping patterns has impacted their mood, compared to cohabiting couples (30.3% compared to 24.9%).
- Families with younger children, from both 0-5 and 0-10 age groups, were most likely to report less sleep – particularly if the family had children from both age groups (35.7%).
- Of those with children under 18, who were sleeping less, 47.9% also reported finding bedtime routine with children more difficult than usual.
- Families with younger children were more likely to report the need of additional support - 15% of those with children aged 0-5 and 12.5% of those with children aged 6-10. This compares to 7.9% with families with teenagers.
One lone parent commented:
As a single parent I feel judged when leaving my house with the children.
Another single mum commented:
I need support as single mum for mental health of my teens and myself as my Ex is alcoholic and I have no family living near
- Of families with children under 18, 241 (13.9%) reported the lack of childcare support was causing stress in the home. This was particularly true for parents with children aged 0-5 (31.3%), followed by those with 6-10 year olds (17.1%). Of those reporting the lack of childcare support was causing stress:
- 56.8% were finding bedtime routine more difficult
- 54.8% were experiencing more tantrums or outbursts
- 50.6% reported experiencing it more difficult to implement house rules
- 46.5% reported their child having pent up energy
- 38.6% reported their child is arguing with them more than usual
- 31.5% reporting increased fighting among siblings
A mother said:
I worry for my children’s psychological wellbeing as currently unemployed just before this started a big worry is getting work and childcare - when will that be back, how can I find work without childcare
- Of families with children under 18, 532 respondents (30.7%) reported that balancing parenting with working from home had added a lot of pressure to family home. This was most likely among cohabiting couples (33.6%), compared to lone parents (18.8%). Those aged 35-44 were by far the most likely to report this challenge (37.4%) compared to 31% of all respondents. Families with younger children were also more likely to report these pressures (41.9% of 0-5, 38.4% of 6-10), compared to 17.3% of families with 11-18 year olds.
One respondent commented:
I think families are suffering by the sudden disconnect from support services that would usually scaffold their existing networks.
[I have a] Newborn baby [and] the lack of family/friend visits for support has been difficult
Another with older children commented:
My teens are exhausted, given huge amounts of school work with little guidance. One teen is overly worried and the other teen is apathetic and gone into himself and needs support
Another stay at home mother said:
A lot more work for mothers with everyone at home and trying to keep the peace and accommodate everyone’s needs, working from home, studying, in need of mental health support.
Some positives aspects emerging
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey primarily highlighted the challenges faced by families during these unprecedented times, however a clear message emerged, that the societal restrictions also had a positive impact on families. Over half of families (52.6%) reported being satisfied or extremely satisfied with family life in general, despite the huge changes. Some families noted how the restrictions allowed families to stop, take stock of what is important and to spend quality time together.
- 46% reported that the restrictions had provided opportunities to reconnect with friends or family and 34% have had opportunities to meet neighbours more than usual.
- 49% reported enjoying the use of social media (e.g. zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp) to connect with family and friends (however 64% said it’s just not the same as physical contact)
- 30% reported eating healthier as a result of being able to prepare meals at home.
- 40% felt able to manage stress and worries, while this increased to 52% for the 689 individuals who were practicing mindfulness, yoga or some other activity to help manage stress. 51% of these individuals reported a positive outlook in general.
One respondent commented: Sometimes there has been tension within the family, sometimes rows, but generally this crisis has brought us closer together as a family with more communication and honesty....tough at times
For further information, please contact:
Dr Pádraic Fleming, Barnardos Research and Policy Manager, [email protected]
Jodie O’Hara, Barnardos Researcher, [email protected]