Skip to main content

Impact of COVID-19 on Child Maltreatment: Income Instability and Parenting Issues

International Journal of Environment Research & Public Health. 18(4):1501. 2021
Wong J.Y.H., Wai A.K.C., Wang M.P., Lee J.J., Li M., Kwok J.Y.Y., Wong C.K.H., Choi A.W.M.*


Introduction: Children are widely recognized as a vulnerable population during disasters and emergencies. The COVID-19 pandemic, like a natural disaster, brought uncertainties and instability to the economic development of the society and social distancing, which might lead to child maltreatment. This study aims to investigate whether job loss, income reduction and parenting affect child maltreatment. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional online survey of 600 randomly sampled parents aged 18 years or older who had and lived with a child under 10 years old in Hong Kong between 29 May to 16 June 2020. Participants were recruited from a random list of mobile phone numbers of a panel of parents. Of 779 recruited target parents, 600 parents completed the survey successfully via a web-based system after obtaining their online consent for participating in the survey. Results: Income reduction was found significantly associated with severe (OR = 3.29, 95% CI = 1.06, 10.25) and very severe physical assaults (OR = 7.69, 95% CI = 2.24, 26.41) towards children. Job loss or large income reduction were also significantly associated with severe (OR= 3.68, 95% CI = 1.33, 10.19) and very severe physical assaults (OR = 4.05, 95% CI = 1.17, 14.08) towards children. However, income reduction (OR = 0.29, 95% CI = 0.15, 0.53) and job loss (OR = 0.47, 95% CI = 0.28, 0.76) were significantly associated with less psychological aggression. Exposure to intimate partner violence between parents is a very strong and significant factor associated with all types of child maltreatment. Having higher levels of difficulty in discussing COVID-19 with children was significantly associated with more corporal punishment (OR = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.05, 1.34), whereas having higher level of confidence in managing preventive COVID-19 behaviors with children was negatively associated with corporal punishment (OR = 0.87, 95% CI = 0.76, 0.99) and very severe physical assaults (OR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.58, 0.93). Conclusions: Income instability such as income reduction and job loss amplified the risk of severe and very severe child physical assaults but protected children from psychological aggression. Also, confidence in teaching COVID-19 and managing preventive COVID-19 behaviors with children was significantly negatively associated with corporal punishment during pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; child maltreatment; income instability; job loss; parenting

PubMed Search

(*Corresponding Author)