School-Age Children's Wellbeing and School-Related Needs during the COVID-19 Pandemic

General Information

School-Age Children's Wellbeing and School-Related Needs during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Rebecca N. Dudovitz, Kyla Thomas, Megha D. Shah, Peter G.Szilagyi, NathalieVizueta, Sitaram Vangala, Rashmi Shetgiri, Arie Kapteyn
Publication Type
Journal paper
Academic Pediatrics
Background and Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures may have disrupted school-related supports and services important to children's wellbeing. However, we lack national data about U.S. children's wellbeing and family priorities for school-related services. We sought to determine a) children's social-emotional wellbeing and b) needs and priorities for school-based services in the 2021-2022 school year among a U.S. sample of parents of school-aged children.

Methods: In June 2021, we surveyed 1504 parents of children enrolling in grades K-12 in the 2021-2022 school year participating in the Understanding America Study, a nationally representative probability-based Internet panel of families completing regular internet-based surveys (Response rate to this survey was 79.2%). Parents completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and reported their needs for school-related services regarding “support getting healthcare”, “mental wellness support”, “food, housing, legal or transportation support”, and “learning supports and enrichment.” Weighted regressions examined associations among wellbeing, needs, and socio-demographic characteristics.

Results: Approximately one-quarter of children had deficits in hyperactivity (26.1%), one-third in peer problems (32.6%), and 40% in prosocial areas. Most parents (83.5%) reported a school-related need, with 77% reporting learning supports and enrichment needs and 57% reporting mental wellness needs. The highest priory needs were for tutoring, socialization, increased instructional time, coping with stress, and physical activity.

Conclusions: U.S. school children have high social-emotional and school-related needs. Investments in schools are urgently needed, particularly for learning supports and mental wellness, to meet the high demand for services and parents’ priorities to support child health and wellbeing.