Rashmita Mistry: COVID-19’s Effect on Children Goes Beyond the Virus

Scholar of children and poverty contributes findings to op-ed on long and short-term effects of the pandemic on mental health and well-being.

Rashmita Mistry, UCLA professor of education and vice chair of Undergraduate Education at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, has contributed to an op-ed in the Providence Journal, on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health, development and well-being of children.

“Children are facing family illness, death and loss of income and support, as well as the closing of schools, childcare centers and after-school programs,” states the op-ed by Cynthia García Coll, professor emerita at Brown University. “Social distancing leads to a disruption of daily routines and a loss of contact with relatives, peers and adult role-models, including teachers, coaches and counselors. The cumulative effects of these losses are significant for their short-term and long-term well-being.”

The op-ed underscores the adverse effects of the pandemic upon low-income families and families of color, due to unemployment or underemployment, resulting in food insecurity and housing issues. These economic factors have impacted the mental health and wellbeing of parents, who are experiencing more stress, and cannot attend to children’s emotional needs. The piece also states that there is an increase in child maltreatment, which often goes unreported due to school closures and limits on social services due to the pandemic.

García Coll also writes of the disparities in educational access that are affecting children across the nation due to unequal access to technology and needed devices to continue with schooling online. The op-ed also delineates the increase in screen time required of students, with evidence that there are impacts upon children such as increased anxiety, behavior and sleep issues, and executive functioning deficits. 

Mistry’s research focuses on the consequences of poverty and economic stress on child and family well-being; young children’s reasoning about social class and economic inequality; and children’s social identity development.

Professor Mistry recently published a commentary for EdSource on the need to support greater protections for California’s early childhood educators and caregivers, co-written with Anna Markowitz, UCLA assistant professor of education.

To read, “Let’s Not Forget the Children During Pandemic,” visit the Providence Journal website.

Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA