Psychological impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families: evaluation before and during covid-19 outbreak among an Italian sample

This article was originally published here

Riv Psichiatr. 2021 Jul-Aug;56(4):205-210. doi: 10.1708/3654.36348.


BACKGROUND: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic forced parents and children to modify their habits with a radical change in the family routine and consequent increase in psychological stress. Children with a neurodevelopmental disorder (NDDs) are particularly vulnerable to new and unexpected situations; moreover, the parents of these children generally show high levels of psychological stress due to the greater commitment that this condition imposes on them. The aim of this study is to evaluate the disease status of NDDs children before and during SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and to evaluate the psychological effects related to measures of social distancing on these children and their families.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Seventy-one children with NDDs, were enrolled in this study and followed up at the Child Neuropsychiatry Unit of the University Hospital Consortium Corporation Polyclinic of Bari (Italy) along with their parents. Parents were evaluated before national lockdown (baseline) and recontacted during the SARS-CoV-2 emergency almost after a year. The changes in emotional/behavioral problems of children and parenting stress before and during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic were assessed with Child Behaviour CheckList (CBCL) and Parent Stress Index – short form (PSI).

RESULTS: The analysis of the emotional and behavioral problems of children with NDDs did not show statistically significant differences between the before and during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic period. The evaluations conducted on parents highlights an increase in parental stress during the pandemic. Significant differences (p<0.05) were found in three subscales: Parenting Distress (PD) scale, Dysfunctional Interaction Parent-Child (P-CDI) scale and Defensive responding scale (DF).

CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the increase in parental stress and a more difficult parent-child interaction with NDDs in the period of lockdown due to the pandemic; identification of these risk targets can be useful for interventions in similar situations. Therefore, it is necessary to provide caregivers information to manage and overcome challenges experienced during a pandemic and providing psychological support for caregivers of children with NDDs.

PMID:34310578 | DOI:10.1708/3654.36348