Researchers at Oxford Examine Families with Young Children during UK Lockdown

Abigail Fiske is a member of COVID-MINDS and a PhD student in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. She and Dr Karla Holmboe, also a member and MRC Fellow in the Department, are running a longitudinal study on the impact of COVID-19 on families with young children. The study is part of the Oxford Early Executive Function (OEEF), a project that examines infants’ executive functions during their first three years of life. The study is housed in Oxford’s BabyLab. Below, Abigail and Karla outline preliminary findings regarding data collected from 203 families between April and May 2020.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to step away from the vibrant, three-dimensional social world that we knew and retreat into our homes, behind computer screens and closed doors. Our support networks collapsed before us and many familiar aspects of life were suddenly shut down. The pandemic has sent shockwaves through our communities, drastically changing what we knew to be ‘normal’. Uncertainty and unpredictability have forced significant changes to the environment in which we live. One of our study participants aptly described her feelings:

“Although my anxiety levels and stress levels are through the roof as a result of this pandemic, it is not the bug that has caused this... it is the impact of being stuck at home, having had all support networks ripped away... The impact of the pandemic on our mental health is horrific, and the damage is going to last for years.”