The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Longitudinal Study on the Emotional-Behavioral Sequelae for Children and Adolescents with Neuropsychiatric Disorders and Their Families

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 19;18(18):9880. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189880.


This study aimed to investigate the immediate and short-term impact of the pandemic on the psychological well-being of Italian children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders and their families. Overall, 56 patients aged 6-18 (M = 13.4 years, SD = 2.77) and their parents were evaluated during the COVID-19 lockdown (T0) and after 4 months (T1). An ad hoc data sheet, Youth Self-Report 11-18 (YSR), Child Behavior Checklist 6-18 (CBCL), and Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) were administered. Patients, mainly suffering from internalizing disorders, overall demonstrated a good adaptation to the pandemic context. Moreover, patients with behavioral disorders showed a greater psychological discomfort at both T0 and T1 compared to patients with internalizing disorders. Over time, patients presented an improvement on the emotional side, as proven by a significant decrease in internalizing and post-traumatic stress problems. Finally, no significant differences were found in the emotional-behavioral profile of patients according to the means of conducting neuropsychiatric interventions during the lockdown (i.e., in person/remotely/interrupted), thus allowing us to exclude important negative effects caused by the transition to remote therapy. Concerning parents, an inverse relationship emerged between the DASS-21 scores and the level of resilience, which therefore represents a protective factor against psychological maladjustment. Over time, an improvement in the psychological well-being of parents was observed, as shown by a significant decrease in mothers' anxiety and fathers' stress.

Keywords: COVID-19; children and adolescents; mental health disease; parenting; psychiatric outpatients; resilience; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2