Family Vulnerability and Disruption During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Prospective Pathways to Child Maladjustment

This study evaluated two risk pathways that may account for increases in child internalizing and externalizing problems during the COVID-19 pandemic: one pathway operating through pre-existing family vulnerability and a second pathway operating through disruption in family functioning occurring in response to the pandemic. We assessed family disruption and family functioning with measures of key family-level and parenting dimensions, including family cohesion, conflict and routines, and parents’ harsh discipline, lax discipline and warmth. In all models, pre-pandemic parent emotional distress, financial strain and child maladjustment were included as covariates. Methods: The sample included 204 families, comprised of parents who had children (MAge = 4.17; 45.1% girls). Parents (MAge = 27.43) completed the first survey prior to COVID-19 onset in the United States, a second survey after COVID-19 onset in May 2020 and a third survey two weeks later. Results: Analyses were conducted in a model-building fashion, first computing structural equation models for each family and parenting dimension separately, then advancing significant dimensions into one integrated model for the family-level factors and a second model for parenting quality factors. Results provided more support for the family disruption hypothesis across all tests. In the family-level domain, decreases in family cohesion and increases in family conflict each uniquely predicted subsequent child maladjustment. In the parenting domain, increases in harsh discipline and lax discipline each uniquely predicted subsequent child maladjustment. Family routines and parental warmth were not associated with child adjustment. However, parents’ emotional distress prior to the pandemic exhibited a robust association with children’s internalizing problems. Conclusions: These findings indicate that efforts to support families in adapting to unique conditions of the pandemic will yield the greatest effect for child adjustment. Specifically, interventions should include efforts to help families maintain cohesion and manage conflict, and help parents minimize increases in harsh and lax discipline. Keywords: Family functioning; parenting; adjustment problems.



Work Title Family Vulnerability and Disruption During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Prospective Pathways to Child Maladjustment
Open Access
  1. Gregory M Fosco
  2. Carlie J. Sloan
  3. Shichen Fang
License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives)
Work Type Article
Publication Date 2022
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
  1. 10.1111/jcpp.13458
Deposited August 11, 2022




This resource is currently not in any collection.

Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Updated
  • Added Creator Gregory M Fosco
  • Added Creator Carlie J. Sloan
  • Added Creator Shichen Fang
  • Added Creator MARK E FEINBERG
  • Added Fosco et al. Family Vulnerability 2022.pdf
  • Updated License Show Changes
  • Published