How Coronavirus Lockdown Is Putting Strain on Parents

New studies by the Office of National Statistics highlight the pressures faced by parents during the coronavirus lockdown. With additional childcare and home schooling responsibilities, though experience varies widely, the research suggests that additional pressures have been affecting the work and overall wellbeing of some parents.

The report, headed by Senior Research Officer Gueorguie Vassilev, draws on the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey between 7th May and 7th June, and suggests that most parents have taken on additional responsibilities in this area, with 87 percent saying their child had been homeschooled in the last seven days.

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The ONS analysis suggests that many parents have felt unprepared to take on these extra duties, with around half (49 percent) saying that they didn’t feel confident in their own ability to do homeschooling, and a similar proportion (52 percent) stating that their child was struggling to continue with their education.

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Dependent children

With many schools closed to most children, the research looked at the extent to which parents have been involved in homeschooling and explored the experience of adults in households with dependent children during the first months of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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Parents gave a range of reasons as to why they had found the situation challenging, with the most common being a lack of motivation for children to learn in a home setting. Around a third of parents also reported a lack of resources and time as being a factor.

In addition to homeschooling, the report looked at how the type and amount of childcare has changed during lockdown, and the extent to which men and women were involved in doing this, by analysing Time Use Survey data.

Comparing the period 28th March to 26th April against a previous study conducted in 2014/15, adults with children increased their time providing childcare by 35 percent. This partly reflects reduced support from elderly relatives; those aged 60 years and over reduced their time spent providing childcare by 90 percent, which amounted to 1 hour and 44 minutes less a week.

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Juggling commitments

The analysis showed how parents who continued to work were juggling their work commitments with extra childcare. Those working from home were more likely to work in the mornings and in the evenings, to free up time to deliver developmental childcare such as homeschooling in the afternoons, particularly between 3pm and 6pm.

During lockdown, the research showed that women spent a far greater proportion of their time looking after children compared to men, with the difference amounting to over an hour and a quarter a day.

There was an equal division of time when it came to activities like home-schooling, and playing or reading with children, but the difference came from women spending much more time on activities like feeding, washing and dressing children.

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The findings vary substantially depending on the age of the children. Parents were most likely to report that their child was homeschooled in the past week if their only or eldest child was aged 5 to 10 years. The amount of homeschooling was also reduced if there were other pre-school age children in the household.

The percentage of parents who said their children had used real-time interactive online learning resources provided by schools (for example, live lessons) significantly increased as the age of the child increased, with 44 percent of parents saying their children aged 16 to 18 years had used this compared with 13 percent for children aged 5 to 10 years.

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Household finances

While under 1 in 10 (9 percent) of parents with a child who was struggling gave a lack of devices as a reason for struggling, this was significantly higher for households with one adult (21 percent) than households with two or more adults (7 percent).

The studies show that the burden of additional childcare and home-schooling have affected work and household finances. Parents were nearly twice as likely to be furloughed compared to those without children, and just under a third (30 percent) of parents in employment that had homeschooled their children agreed that it was adversely affecting their job.

There were also effects on personal wellbeing. More than a third of parents that had homeschooled said that it had put a strain on their relationships with others in the household, and over a quarter said that it was negatively affecting their overall wellbeing. A higher proportion of mothers agreed with this second statement (1 in 3) when compared to fathers (1 in 5).

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Coronavirus lockdown

The ONS says it will continue to closely monitor how parents are being affected at different stages of the coronavirus lockdown, including assessing how things change when children are able to go back to school.

While these studies by the Office of National Statistics highlight the pressures faced by parents during the coronavirus lockdown, a forthcoming report, Coronavirus and the Social Impacts on Great Britain: 24 July 2020 will have information on parents’ feelings towards their children returning to school in the new term.

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