Covid-19 pandemic is having a detrimental effect on families' mental health, a new study has discovered.
Researchers from Penn State found that there was a significant negative effects on parents' and children's wellbeing and functioning, especially during the first few months of the global health crisis.
In the study, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of "internalising" problems like depression and anxiety, and "externalising" problems such as disruptive and aggressive behaviour.
Parents also reported they were experiencing much higher levels of depression, and subsequently, this had a negative effect on co-parenting.
Study leader Mark Feinberg said that a good co-parenting relationship was essential for family wellbeing, as stress could lead to "greater conflict and hostility."
"If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry," he explained.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year, the study discovered that it led to financial stress within families, as well as problems related to juggling work along with childcare after schools were closed, all while working from home in the same household.
The researchers recruited 129 families, and asked them to complete a questionnaire about their depressive symptoms, anxiety, the quality of their relationship with their co-parent, and behaviour they observed in their children.
They found that parents were 2.4 times more likely to report "clinically significant" high levels of depression after the pandemic hit.
They were also more than four times likely to report externalising and internalising problems in their children, which indicated that professional help might be needed.
"The size of these changes are considered very large in our field and are rarely seen. We saw not just overall shifts, but greater numbers of parents and children who were in the clinical range for depression and behaviour problems, which means they were likely struggling with a diagnosable disorder and would benefit from treatment," Feinberg explained.