Lockdown linked to widening disadvantage gap for babies and toddlers

Babies and toddlers from disadvantaged backgrounds have been missing out on activities to support their development, compared to children of highly-educated, well-paid parents, new research has found.

The early results are the first to come from a new study investigating family life and early child development during the COVID-19 crisis, run by a team of researchers from five UK universities, including the University of Oxford, and Oxford Brookes University.

More than 500 parents of children under three years have taken part in the Social Distancing and Development Study (SDDS).

Parents were asked about time spent doing enriching activities with their child, and amount of screen time, before and during lockdown. Enriching activities included reading, playing, singing, one-to-one conversations, cooking, arts and crafts, exercise, gardening and shared outdoors time.

University of Oxford researcher, Alex Hendry, who led the first report to come out of the study said: “Children depend on high-quality interactions to support all aspects of their development. It is heartening to see that most families have been managing to find time to talk, read and play with their babies during this critical time, even amongst everything else going on. But from what parents are telling us it is clear that during lockdown some babies have been missing out.”

90% of families reported an increase in enriching activities during lockdown, but increases were not spread equally across families. During lockdown – but not before lockdown – disadvantaged parents (lower income, education, occupational status and/or living in a deprived neighbourhood) were less likely to engage in enriching activities. In particular, disadvantaged families spent less time doing activities that require outdoor space and access to books.

75% of parents reported that during lockdown their children spent more time than usual watching TV or playing with a tablet. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds were particularly likely to have high daily screen use.

Oxford Brookes University researcher Dr Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez, who leads the SDSS project said: “While we know disadvantaged families often do not have access to the same opportunities for child development as their more well-off peers, these disadvantages were exacerbated by the UK lockdown. In particular, the closure of playgrounds and libraries has disproportionately impacted children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“In the event of continued local lockdowns, it is vital that disadvantaged families are given extra support to promote children’s early development. Access to communal outdoor spaces and shared resources such as libraries should only be restricted as a last resort."

Sally Hogg, Head of Policy and Campaigning at the Parent-Infant Foundation, added: “Sadly, this research demonstrates, yet again, that babies in families from more disadvantaged communities have been impacted more by the Covid-19 crisis. The crisis has been difficult for most people, but has had a particular impact on families without the resources to buffer its impacts for their babies.”

The Social Distancing and Development Study is investigating the impact of social distancing and lockdown on infants’ cognitive development, sleep, social interactions, screen-use and time spent outdoors. The research aims to inform policy makers on how to reduce further impact on children’s development and identify the best ways to support families as the country moves through the crisis.

The SDDS study is part of a wider project investigating the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns on language development in different countries, led by Julien Mayor and Natalia Kartushina from the University of Oslo.

Read more about the SDDS study here https://babylab.brookes.ac.uk/research/social-distancing-and-development
The SDDS study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19, and will run until November 2021.

Children Always First Foster Care

Registered Manager

Job of the week

Featured jobs

Children Always First Foster Care

Registered Manager

Second Step

Senior Family Safeguarding Recovery and Wellbeing Worker

Single Homelessness Project

Team Manager - Homelessness

Single Homelessness Project

Services Manager - Adult Complex Needs Service

Most popular articles today

Two thirds of local authorities report caseload decreases for children’s social workers

Two thirds of local authorities report caseload decreases for children’s social workers

People with learning disabilities added to COVID-19 vaccination priority list

People with learning disabilities added to COVID-19 vaccination priority list

Education Committee to investigate outcomes of children in care homes

Education Committee to investigate outcomes of children in care homes

Free psychological training launched for those supporting children and young people

Free psychological training launched for those supporting children and young people

SWT_SideAd1.png
SWT_Online_Events_ad.png

What's new today:

Two thirds of local authorities report caseload decreases for children’s social workers

About Us

Social Work Today is an online platform, developed to give professionals a sector-specific space that creates the networks to provide them with social work information, webinars, jobs and CPD from across the UK and wider global community.

Advertise with us

There are a number of options to promote your organisation on Social Work Today, from banner and advertising spaces, to job postings that are uniquely personalised to effectively showcase your message.

Click here to find out more

  • Instagram
© Social Work Today 2021