Parenting under lockdown

New analysis highlights the pressures faced by parents during the coronavirus lockdown, due to taking on more childcare and homeschooling responsibilities. As we’ve found from many aspects of life under lockdown, not everyone’s experience is the same, but early results suggest these additional pressures have been affecting the work and overall wellbeing of some parents. Gueorguie Vassilev and Tracy Williams explain more.

Today we have published two new pieces of analysis, drawn from different sources, that explore the experience of adults in households with dependent children during the first months of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With many schools closed to most children, we have looked at the extent to which parents have been involved in homeschooling. This analysis, based on the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey between 7 May and 7 June, suggests that most parents have taken on additional responsibilities in this area, with 87% saying their child had been homeschooled in the last seven days.

However, many have felt unprepared to take on these extra duties. Around half (49%) said that they didn’t feel confident in their own ability to do homeschooling, and a similar proportion (52%) said their child was struggling to continue with their education.

Of the latter group, parents gave a range of reasons as to why there had been challenges, with the most common being a lack of motivation for children to learn in a home setting. However, around a third of parents also reported a lack of resources and time as being a factor.

In addition to homeschooling, we have explored how the type and amount of childcare has changed during lockdown, and the extent to which men and women were involved in doing this, by analysing Time Use Survey data.

Comparing the period 28 March to 26 April, against a previous study conducted in 2014/15, adults with children increased their time providing childcare by 35%. This partly reflects reduced support from elderly relatives; those aged 60 years and over reduced their time spent providing childcare by 90%, which amounted to 1 hour and 44 minutes less a week.

Our analysis shows how parents who continued to work were juggling their work commitments with the extra childcare. Those working from home were more likely to work in the mornings and in the evenings, to free up time to deliver developmental childcare such as homeschooling in the afternoons, particularly between 3 and 6pm.

During lockdown women spent a far greater proportion of their time looking after children compared to men, with the difference amounting to over an hour and a quarter a day. Although we found there was an equal division of time when it came to activities like home-schooling, and playing or reading with children, the difference came from women spending much more time on activities like feeding, washing and dressing children.

The findings in both sets of analysis vary substantially depending on the age of the children. Parents were most likely to report that their child was homeschooled in the past week if their only or eldest child was aged 5 to 10 years. The amount of homeschooling was also reduced if there were other pre-school age children in the household.

Our studies show that the burden of additional childcare and home-schooling have affected work and household finances. Parents were nearly twice as likely to be furloughed compared to those without children, and just under a third (30%) of parents in employment that had homeschooled their children agreed that it was adversely affecting their job.

There were also effects on personal wellbeing. More than a third of parents that had homeschooled said that it had put a strain on their relationships with others in the household, and over a quarter said that it was negatively affecting their overall wellbeing. A higher proportion of mothers agreed with this second statement (1 in 3) when compared to fathers (1 in 5).

ONS will continue to closely monitor how parents are being affected at different stages of the coronavirus lockdown, including assessing how things change when children are able to go back to school. Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain: 24 July 2020 will have information on parents’ feelings towards their children returning to school in the new term.