COVID-19 Employment Status, Dyadic Family Relationships, and Child Psychological Well-Being

J Adolesc Health. 2021 Nov;69(5):705-712. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.07.016. Epub 2021 Sep 14.


Purpose: COVID-19 has led to soaring unemployment rates and the widespread adoption of working-from-home (WFH) arrangements that have disrupted family relationships and adolescent psychological well-being. This longitudinal study investigated how parental employment status (i.e., job loss and WFH) influenced adolescents' daily affect indirectly through family functioning (i.e., parent-adolescent conflict and parental warmth) and whether these links varied by family's socioeconomic status.

Methods: Daily-diary approaches were used to collect dyadic parent-adolescent data from a nationwide American sample (6,524 daily assessments from 447 parent-adolescent dyads; 45% black, 36% white, 10% Latinx, 7% Asian American, 2% Native American) over the course of 15 consecutive days at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: Parents who experienced job loss demonstrated increases in parent-child conflict, which in turn predicted decreases in child positive affect and increases in child negative affect. Furthermore, parents' WFH status predicted increases in parental warmth, which in turn predicted increases in child positive affect and decreases in child negative affect. Parents of low-income families were more likely to experience job loss (24% vs. 13%) and less likely to WFH (44% vs. 73%) than middle-high income parents.

Conclusions: Adolescents from families facing economic hardship and employment shifts during COVID-19 experienced changes in parent-child relational dynamics that influenced their emotional well-being. Recognizing these shifts in family ecology is critical to health providers' ability to screen for mental health, assess existing family supports, and provide timely, targeted information about stress management and contending with family conflict.

Keywords: COVID-19; Employment status; Family relationship; Psychological well-being; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Employment
  • Family Relations
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pandemics*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress, Psychological