We examined pathways from pre-existing psychosocial and economic vulnerability to mental health difficulties and stress in families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from two time points from a multi-cohort study initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic were used. Parents of children 6–18 years completed questionnaires on pre-COVID-19 socioeconomic and demographic factors in addition to material deprivation and stress due to COVID-19 restrictions, mental health, and family functioning. Youth 10 years and older also completed their own measures of mental health and stress. Using structural equation modelling, pathways from pre-existing vulnerability to material deprivation and stress due to COVID-19 restrictions, mental health, and family functioning, including reciprocal pathways, were estimated. Pre-existing psychosocial and economic vulnerability predicted higher material deprivation due to COVID-19 restrictions which in turn was associated with parent and child stress due to restrictions and mental health difficulties. The reciprocal effects between increased child and parent stress and greater mental health difficulties at Time 1 and 2 were significant. Reciprocal effects between parent and child mental health were also significant. Finally, family functioning at Time 2 was negatively impacted by child and parent mental health and stress due to COVID-19 restrictions at Time 1. Psychosocial and economic vulnerability is a risk factor for material deprivation during COVID-19, increasing the risk of mental health difficulties and stress, and their reciprocal effects over time within families. Implications for prevention policy and parent and child mental health services are discussed.


Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Cite as

Rizeq, J., Korczak, D., Cost, K., Anagnostou, E., Charach, A., Monga, S., Birken, C., Kelley, E., Nicolson, R., Burton, C. & Crosbie, J. 2021, 'Vulnerability pathways to mental health outcomes in children and parents during COVID-19', Current Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02459-z

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 16 June 2022
Was this page helpful?