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The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for policy in relation to children and young people: a research review

Smyth and fellow collaborators at ESRI, Dublin.

Research questions: 

How has COVID-19 impacted on the lives of children and young people in terms of their family and peer relationships; formal and informal learning; physical and mental health and wellbeing; and transitions to further/higher education, training and the youth labour market?

Type(s) of inequality and how inequality is defined:

Inequality is defined as the differences in social class, education and/or household income across groups of children, young people and families.

Approach or method used:

This study draws on Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) survey findings, along with the results of cross-sectional studies such as My World and the Health Behaviour of School-Aged Children (HBSC), to briefly document the lives of children and young people in pre-COVID-19 Ireland, as a basis for understanding the policy issues and inequalities that were already apparent. The report then draws on emerging studies internationally and in Ireland on the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people. In particular, the report reviews research evidence in the areas of family and peer relationships, health and wellbeing, education (from early childhood to third-level) and post-school transitions to provide insights into the potential consequences of the current crisis from infancy to early adulthood.

Key findings/results:

The report concludes that:

  • School closures and the lack of face-to-face interaction with peers and broader family networks are having direct effects on children’s and young people’s lives.
  • The impact of the pandemic will be felt the most by young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds and those with special educational needs.
  • Parental job loss and the possibility of longer-term unemployment will affect child wellbeing through greater stress in families.

Implication of findings/relevance to policy:

The report highlights the importance of addressing the impacts of the crisis on children and young people, who have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report points to the need to address inequalities, support educational re-engagement and well-being, and the need to assist young people whose transition into the labour market has been disrupted.

Read the full report:

The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for policy in relation to children and young people: a research review