A study on children's psyche during the COVID-19 period shows that while 60 per cent of them were 'happy' during the past year of the pandemic, almost equal percentage (59.8 per cent) missed going to school and 42.3 per cent missed meeting friends.
On the other hand, 44.9 per cent of the child respondents reported experiencing stress or trauma, of whom 43.3 per cent were girls and 46.9 per cent were boys.
One in every four participating kids (26 per cent) cited financial problems to be the biggest stress factor during the pandemic months, followed by uncertainty about when the pandemic will end (24 per cent) and worry about contracting the virus (23.5 per cent).
Almost half the children (48.7 per cent) reported that their daily routine had 'changed a lot', and less than 50 per cent reported 'feeling worried' (41.9 per cent) or 'bored' (45.2 per cent).
The study titled Understanding Children’s Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stressors, Resilience, Support And Adaptation was conducted jointly by Child Rights and You (CRY) and The School of Human Ecology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), as the pandemic came a full year circle.
It was aimed at understanding children and adolescents’ experiences of stress during the lockdown months, and how they have been coping and showing resilience through this pandemic.
Even though children were not considered to be ‘the face of the pandemic’, the fact that they were extremely vulnerable to trauma and other adverse psycho-social impacts induced by the crisis—and that their anxiety has been compounded by the dwindling family economy, prolonged school closure and home confinement—is endorsed by the findings of the study, a note by CRY and TISS said.
Interestingly, while talking about the support received from the family in managing emotions, most respondents (59.3 per cent) underscored the role played by their mothers, 45.9 per cent mentioned their fathers and 13.2 per cent their siblings.
A total of 821 children—470 girls and 351 boys within the age group of 9 to 17 years—across 13 cities namely Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Indore, Pune, Siliguri, Darjeeling, Imphal, Moreh and Pattan participated in the study.
Almost half the participants (44 per cent) were within the age group of 12 to 14 years, followed by 35.9 per cent who were within 15 to 17 years and about one-fifth of the children (19.9 per cent) within 9 to 11 years.
More than half of the respondents (65.7 per cent) came from families where the parents had received little or no formal education, and majority of the parents working as labourers (52.1 per cent), followed by self-employed persons (25.4 per cent).
More than one-fourth of the children shared that engaging in recreation, such as playing (26.4 per cent), listening to music (10.4 per cent), or watching TV (10.2 per cent), enabled them to soothe themselves when they felt upset or worried. Many children (6.4 per cent) stated their support systems and their ability to think positively (15.7 per cent) were the strengths that enabled them to cope with the pandemic.
Commenting on the study, Puja Marwaha, the chief executive officer of CRY India, said, “The pandemic has particularly impacted children and adolescents who are not only witnessing the stressors in their families but also experiencing serious disruption to their schooling, physical activities and peer-bonding process. The study was conducted in an attempt to bring the voices of children and adolescents to the forefront and to understand their experiences of the pandemic. The findings of this study throw light on children's resilience in the face of this pandemic and the role of family support in helping them build such resilience.”
Elaborating on the major findings of the study, Shalini Bharat, the Vice Chancellor of TISS, said, “The study highlights the numerous stressors children are encountering—some on a daily basis—such as financial stressors, lack of play time and peer relationship, access to schools and schooling. Children from economically disadvantaged groups are particularly adversely impacted. These findings can help organisations and professionals working with children and adolescents to plan targeted and responsive interventions and services to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and foster well-being and resilience among this vulnerable section of the population.”
The research team included Chetna Duggal, associate professor, School of Human Ecology, TISS; Rajani Konantambigi, professor and dean, School of Human Ecology, TISS; Trina Chakrabarti, director, East and Volunteer Action, CRY; Anupama Muhuri, AGM, Volunteer Action, CRY; Durga Ashok Vernekar and Jogya Chakravorty.