Child, parent, and family mental health and functioning in Australia during COVID-19: comparison to pre-pandemic data

E. M. Westrupp*, C. Bennett, T. Berkowitz, G. J. Youssef, J. W. Toumbourou, R. Tucker, F. J. Andrews, S. Evans, S. J. Teague, G. C. Karantzas, G. M. Melvin, C. Olsson, J. A. Macdonald, C. J. Greenwood, A. Mikocka-Walus, D. Hutchinson, M. Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M. A. Stokes, L. Olive, A. G. WoodJ. A. McGillivray, E. Sciberras

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic presents significant risks to population mental health. Despite evidence of detrimental effects for adults, there has been limited examination of the impact of COVID-19 on parents and children specifically. We aim to examine patterns of parent and child (0–18 years) mental health, parent substance use, couple conflict, parenting practices, and family functioning during COVID-19, compared to pre-pandemic data, and to identify families most at risk of poor outcomes according to pre-existing demographic and individual factors, and COVID-19 stressors. Participants were Australian mothers (81%) and fathers aged 18 years and over who were parents of a child 0–18 years (N = 2365). Parents completed an online self-report survey during ‘stage three’ COVID-19 restrictions in April 2020. Data were compared to pre-pandemic data from four Australian population-based cohorts. Compared to pre-pandemic estimates, during the pandemic period parents reported higher rates of parent depression, anxiety, and stress (Cohen’s d = 0.26–0.81, all p < 0.001), higher parenting irritability (d = 0.17–0.46, all p < 0.001), lower family positive expressiveness (d = − 0.18, p < 0.001), and higher alcohol consumption (22% vs 12% drinking four or more days per week, p < 0.001). In multivariable analyses, we consistently found that younger parent age, increased financial deprivation, pre-existing parent and child physical and mental health conditions, COVID-19 psychological and environmental stressors, and housing dissatisfaction were associated with worse parent and child functioning and more strained family relationships. Our data suggest wide-ranging, detrimental family impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic; and support policy actions to assist families with financial supports, leave entitlements, and social housing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317–330
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date21 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

This pre-print is available under a CC-By Attribution 4.0 International licence

Funding: EW, AM, and GK were supported by Deakin Faculty of Health Mid-Career Fellowships. DH was supported by a NHMRC Investigator Grant (1197488). ES was supported by an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (1110688), a Medical Research Future Fund Investigator Grant (1194297) and a Veski Inspiring Women’s Fellowship. LO was supported by an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (1158487).


  • Child mental health
  • Couple conflict
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Family functioning
  • Mental health
  • Parenting
  • Pandemics
  • Parents/psychology
  • Humans
  • Australia/epidemiology
  • Mental Health
  • Parenting/psychology
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Child


Dive into the research topics of 'Child, parent, and family mental health and functioning in Australia during COVID-19: comparison to pre-pandemic data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this