Drawing on the strengths and expertise of an interdisciplinary team allows us to examine what matters most and how best to support young children and their families from a comprehensive knowledge base.
Two University of Washington College of Education faculty members, Assistant Professor Soojin Oh Park and Associate Professor Holly S. Schindler, will study child and family well-being in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic with a grant awarded by the UW Population Health Initiative.
Park and Schindler will help lead the study “Children, COVID-19, and its Consequences” as part of an interdisciplinary team that includes faculty from the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, Department of Sociology and Department of Psychology.
The research team will examine the impact of economic disruption caused by COVID-19 on family functioning and parent and child well-being. The projects’ aims are to 1) describe the magnitude and scope of resulting economic insecurity faced by families at different income levels, 2) investigate how economic insecurity is related to child and family well-being, and 3) analyze how COVID-19 exacerbates class and racial/ethnic disparities in economic circumstances, family functioning and child well-being.
This study, which will survey 600 parents of children ages 5 to 11 in King County, is a part of a larger effort studying impacts in three other cities (Durham, N.C.; Pittsburgh; and New Brunswick, N.J.) to paint a comprehensive picture of the economic security and well-being of children and families across multiple cities during the pandemic.
“Given that this will be the first national survey of racially and socioeconomically diverse families across four regions, we are hoping to contribute to building the evidence base on how this pandemic disproportionately affects child and family well-being in low-income, communities of color, and what policy measures might better target and prioritize the needs and lived realities of communities of color,” Park said.
Schindler said that while the study focuses on economic impacts, researchers will also have the opportunity to explore families’ access to and experiences with formal education during this unprecedented time.
“In addition to assessing disparities in access to technology, we will examine the ways that COVID-19 may be influencing family-school relationships, which has important and immediate implications for educational practice,” Schindler said. “We will also examine parents’ perceptions of inclusion in school decision-making processes related to COVID-19.”
Park noted that understanding child development, particularly in the earliest life span, necessitates an interdisciplinary investigation.
“Children's learning, health and social-emotional well-being are intricately linked and build on one another,” she said. “Drawing on the strengths and expertise of an interdisciplinary team allows us to examine what matters most and how best to support young children and their families from a comprehensive knowledge base using diverse methodological approaches. I also appreciate the cross-pollination of ideas that can inspire innovative breakthroughs when working with colleagues across the disciplines with a common goal of supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized families of young children.”
Schindler said each member of the research team brings distinct expertise in multiple systems that influence the lives of children and families, including those related to economics, public health, food security, mental health and education.
“This diversity of perspectives gives us the opportunity to take a more holistic and comprehensive approach to understanding how children and families are being impacted by COVID-19, and to consider policy and practice implications across multiple systems,” Schindler said.
“Children, COVID-19, and its Consequences” was one of 18 UW teams selected for a COVID-19 economic recovery research grant.
“We believe 18 projects selected for funding will quickly help us better understand, mitigate, or reverse the economic impacts of COVID-19, particularly for vulnerable populations that have borne the brunt of the economic losses,” said Ali H. Mokdad, the UW’s chief strategy officer for population health and professor of health metrics sciences.
Park is an assistant professor in early childhood and family studies. Her research studies have been focused on early childhood development and parenting in the context of culture, immigration, and public policy.
Schindler is an associate professor in early childhood and family studies. Her current research focuses on how policies and practices can best support family and school contexts during early childhood to promote positive child development for vulnerable populations.
Story by Annie Trieu, marketing and communications student aide.
Holly Schindler, Associate Professor of Education
Soojin Oh Park, Assistant Professor of Education
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications