Children are inherently shaped by the environment in which the live, learn, and play. This proposal to study the impact of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus outbreak on children?s development brings together a multidisciplinary team of investigators across the country from 6 ECHO Awards, representing 5 cohorts of ~2500 middle childhood and adolescent youth and the Person-Reported Outcome (PRO) Core). The proposed research develops and tests a novel conceptual model that casts family and community sociodemographic risk as important factors that shape COVID-19 related school, family, and child hardships and resources that influence child positive health. We propose that school resources (e.g., type and quality of distance learning), family hardships (e.g., financial strain and technology access), and child emotional support (e.g., connections to peers and family support) combine to predict children's positive health as measured by academic competence and psychological well- being. This ECHO proposal combines both variable-centered and person-centered methodological approaches to generate critical, time-sensitive knowledge on modifiable and actionable factors that can effectively mitigate the impact of COVID-19 psychosocial hardships on child positive health development. As school districts, communities, and states begin planning for the next stages of economic opening and return from school closures in the fall, it is imperative to know which children are most vulnerable and at-risk of being left behind; how school policies and teaching approaches can be best optimized; and what social and emotional supports need to be in place in order for families and communities to ?build back better.?

Public Health Relevance

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant hardships for children and families (cancellation of in-person schooling, the fraying of social networks, and financial insecurity), yet the impact of these sweeping changes on child well-being is unknown. These disruptions likely disproportionately impact children in low socioeconomic status families and racial/ethnic minorities, who are more vulnerable to disruptions in the family and learning environment. In this proposal, we employ a social justice framework to examine: the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 hardships along the lines of race and class; the extent to which these hardships are associated with child positive health; and aspects of distance learning and the family environment that may improve child outcomes in these unprecedented times and serve as targets for future programs, practices and policies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
Resource-Related Research Projects--Cooperative Agreements (U24)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Blaisdell, Carol J
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Forrest, Christopher B; Blackwell, Courtney K; Camargo Jr, Carlos A (2018) Advancing the Science of Children's Positive Health in the National Institutes of Health Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Research Program. J Pediatr 196:298-300
Blackwell, Courtney K; Wakschlag, Lauren S; Gershon, Richard C et al. (2018) Measurement framework for the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes research program. Curr Opin Pediatr 30:276-284