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OU-Tulsa Study Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Local Families, Teachers

OU-Tulsa Study Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Local Families, Teachers

Older woman and child wash hands together at a kitchen sink

The OU-Tulsa Early Childhood Education Institute conducted a recent study of Tulsa-area first graders to understand how COVID-19 impacted the financial, physical and mental health of students, parents and teachers during the first three months of the pandemic.

The study, “Parents, Teachers, and Distance Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Snapshot from Tulsa, OK,” reported that nearly half of responding parents lost their job or had hours cut, and 60% reported a decrease in household income. Additionally, 49% of families experienced food insecurity, with families of color reporting relatively higher levels of income loss and food insecurity according to the study.

“Responses from teachers and parents in this study indicate some clear wins along with many struggles during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sherri Castle, assistant director of research at the ECEI, Oklahoma’s only early childhood institute focused on equity in early childhood. “Schools were successful in distributing devices to many students and in providing abundant opportunities for accessing meals. However, despite these provisions, many families still struggled with food insecurity, internet access and other household stressors. Importantly, structural inequities that are rampant in society were illustrated in these data as well.”

While one in four parents reported experiencing symptoms of depression since the beginning of the pandemic, food-insecure parents were twice as likely to experience depression. Nearly half of parents – 46% – reported increased emotional or behavioral problems in their children.

In response to these findings, Diane Horm, director of the ECEI and George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education at OU-Tulsa noted that these findings are worrisome.

“Our study’s families’ pervasive reports of food insecurity and depressive symptoms are cause for concern,” she said. “The accumulation of these and related stress factors have been shown in previous research to hamper positive parenting. The parental reports of increased emotional and behavioral problems in their children likely reflect increased stress for both the children and their parents.”

Teachers also struggled with many of the same issues as the parents.

One in five teachers reported food insecurity, while one-fourth of them experienced depressive symptoms. Nearly half of those teachers reporting food insecurity also reported feeling depressed.

Read the full study here.


By Bonnie Rucker

Article Published:  Wednesday, September 9, 2020