Comparing the initial impact of COVID-19 on burden and psychological distress among family caregivers of children with and without developmental disabilities.
Chafouleas SM, Iovino EA.
Sch Psychol. 2021 Apr 15.
Commentary* by Dr. Margaret Weiss: The syndemic and online learning effected the emotional wellbeing of many children. Multiple studies have suggested that children with neurodevelopmental disorders were at a particular disadvantage. This was especially true for those children who received services in school.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is presenting challenges for families (Cluver et al., The Lancet, 2020), which may be exacerbated for caregivers of children with developmental disabilities (DDs; Center on the Developing Child, Stress, hope, and the role of science: Responding to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020).
The purpose of this study was to explore caregiver burden and psychological distress among caregivers of children with DD as compared to caregivers of typically developing children across the United States as a result of COVID-19. Between 2 weeks and 1 month following COVID-19-related school closures, a total of 460 caregivers from across the U.S. completed an online survey via Qualtrics; recruitment and initial survey completion occurred simultaneously.
Of the total sample of eligible participants (N = 407), 225 were the primary caregiver of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)/attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 182 were the primary caregiver of a child without ASD/ADHD.
Participants across groups indicated varying levels of exposure to COVID-19 and an impact of COVID-19 at the community and individual or family levels. However, caregivers of children with ASD/ADHD reported significantly higher levels of burden, depression, anxiety, and stress.
Overall, findings are consistent with anecdotal and preliminary reports that all caregivers are experiencing COVID-19-related challenges, with caregivers of children with ASD/ADHD experiencing even greater challenges, particularly with regard to burden and psychological distress.
* Abstracts are selected for their clinical relevance by Dr. Margaret Weiss, Director of Clinical Research, Child Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard University. Her commentary reflects her own opinion. It is not approved or necessarily representative of the CADDRA board.