Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Lessons From Pandemic Could Advance Understanding of How Best to Support Vulnerable Families

The trauma and unpredictability of COVID-19 are likely to add stress in the lives of vulnerable children, including those who are abused, maltreated, and/or have a mental illness. There is much that can be learned from such stress to help vulnerable families in the future, according to an article published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Recent advancements across disciplines relevant to early child development (for example, pediatrics, neuroscience, epigenetics, psychology, and public health) can be used to understand the consequences of this pandemic and develop and scale empirically supported interventions for adversity-exposed children and families,” wrote Danielle Roubinov, Ph.D., Nicole R. Bush, Ph.D., and W. Thomas Boyce, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco.

To understand the consequences of COVID-19 on child development, the authors advised researchers to carefully assess parents and children over time about family exposure to the pandemic and COVID-19–associated losses/strains, including the loss of housing, increased family conflict, and/or separation from a parent or the death of loved one. Collecting information about the mental health of parents and children and family access to supports are also essential for evaluating children’s response to the pandemic, they added.

The authors also recommended that researchers studying the consequences of COVID-19 on vulnerable families consider the following:

  • Examine factors that promote resilience and positive adjustment.
  • Assess biological markers of resiliency or recovery.
  • Consider how best to analyze factors that mediate or moderate the association of the pandemic with parent, child, and overall family functioning.
  • Collect data on health disparities.
  • Evaluate ongoing efforts to meet COVID-associated mental health needs and other prevention and intervention efforts that have continued despite pandemic.

“[L]essons from COVID-19 have the potential to deepen rather than diminish the research agenda on adverse early experiences among children and families. The current global pandemic is an international tragedy; however, the greatest burden of morbidity, mortality, and misfortune will be borne by those with the fewest resources,” Roubinov, Bush, and Boyce concluded. “Our purpose is not to turn this tragedy into academic gain but rather to promote advancement in the science of child development as a means to reduce the chasm between advantaged and vulnerable families.”

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Have You Thought About Running for APA Office? Help Steer APA’s Future
Nominate yourself or a colleague

As chair of APA’s Nominating Committee, Immediate Past President Bruce Schwartz, M.D., is seeking to diversify the elected leadership of APA and invites all members to consider running for one of the open Board of Trustee offices in APA’s 2021 election: president-elect; secretary; early-career psychiatrist trustee-at-large; minority/underrepresented representative trustee; Area 1, 4, and 7 trustees; and resident-fellow member trustee-elect. You may nominate yourself or a colleague—the important point is that you get involved! The deadline is Tuesday, September 1.

Access Nomination Requirements and Form

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