*The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.
COVID-19 has disrupted countless lives around the globe and still serves as a daily, unavoidable stressor. Now, researchers from the University of Waterloo are revealing just how detrimental the pandemic has been for multi-child families.
To start, the study finds that within a multi-child family, one child typically tends to be more affected by the pandemic than their siblings — experiencing more stress, anxiety, anger, and depression. Unfortunately, this development appears to create a negative feedback loop of poor parenting decisions. Stressed-out parents trying to navigate these uncertain times end up reacting harshly to the child in need of additional support.
Data was collected on over 500 caregivers and 1,000 siblings for this study. More specifically, caregivers with at least two children (ages 5-18) filled out surveys asking about their COVID stress, overall family functioning, and mental health on numerous occasions during a two-month tracking period.
“Our study shows that parents tend to be most reactive and least positive to the child showing the highest levels of mental health difficulties,” says lead study author Dillon Browne, a professor of clinical psychology, in a university release.
“Struggles with mental health among family members exacerbate each other in a feedback loop,” he continues. “Our study suggests that the direction of influence appears to go from the child’s mental health to parenting, not parenting to child mental health.”
The study was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.