PRB – Family Experience COVID – Background

New Data Show Family Violence and Stress Related to COVID-19 Remain High, But Beginning to Ease for California Families

Encinitas, Calif., October 7, 2021—High levels of stress and family violence among California’s children and their caregivers persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic. But tensions have eased recently, as fewer households report financial strain and disruptions to their normal routine. That’s according to new findings from the Child and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic survey released today by PRB’s KidsData program.

However, caregivers are still worried about how their children are faring, the new findings show. At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, roughly two-thirds of caregivers said they were concerned about their child’s emotional and mental health; an equal proportion feared that their child was falling behind academically.

To track the pandemic’s impact over time, questionnaires were administered to adults in California with caregiving responsibilities for children ages 0 to 17 in November 2020, March 2021, and July 2021, with KidsData analyzing the California data. Findings were weighted and are based on about 1,550 responses from each period.

“The data confirm what we all know—life was more challenging during the pandemic, particularly for children and their caregivers, and this may have led to high rates of stress, family violence, and financial pressures. These insights can help policymakers and social service organizations assess the type of support families still need and where to fill gaps,” said Lori Turk-Bicakci, senior program director for PRB’s KidsData program.

Violence and harsh discipline have persisted in some households. In both March 2021 and July 2021, about one in three caregivers reported experiencing intimate partner violence and more than one in five caregivers reported spanking, slapping, or hitting a child in their care.

The findings also reveal lower levels of stress among caregivers, better financial situations in households, and more frequent social activities among children compared to early in the pandemic, changes that might improve family well-being. While 34% of caregivers shared in March 2021 that they felt stressed most or all the time during the pandemic, in July 2021 that percentage dropped to 29%. In November 2020, 57% of caregivers reported a similar or better household financial situation compared to before the pandemic; by July 2021, that number had risen to 68%. In addition, among the caregivers who said their children’s social activities were cancelled early in the pandemic, only 14% still reported cancellations in July 2021.

The data also highlight caregivers’ efforts to buffer the harsh realities of the pandemic and provide positive experiences for their children: throughout the pandemic, more than 90% said they joined their children in recreational activities and nearly two thirds said they participated in outdoor activities with them.

Data from the Child and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic questionnaire for California, as well as for seven regions in the state, are available on PRB’s website. At the state level, findings are broken down by family income level, race and ethnicity, and the presence of a child with special health care needs in the household.

The Child and Family Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic questionnaire was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Tufts Medical Center, Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences. An oversample of the questionnaire for California was funded by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health and the California Essentials for Childhood Initiative, led by the California Department of Public Health, Injury and Violence Prevention Branch and the California Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention.

To learn more about the development of the questionnaire and to see national-level findings, see Family Snapshots: Life During the Pandemic on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.


About Population Reference Bureau (PRB)

Contact: Liselle Yorke, 202-939-5463

PRB promotes and supports evidence-based policies, practices, and decision-making to improve the health and well-being of people throughout the world. Find out more at Follow us on Twitter @PRBdata. To learn more about children’s health and well-being in California, follow KidsData on Twitter @Kidsdata.