A survey of more than 800 parents and children who lived through the Covid-19 pandemic in Abu Dhabi will help to inform future policies and response plans to emergencies that may arise in the future.
Called “Life During Covid: Young Children & their Families in Abu Dhabi”, the study measured the impact the pandemic had on parents and their children.
While the survey conducted by the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) in partnership with New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) showed that children were less anxious during the pandemic, screen time for children up to the age of three did increase dramatically.
Up to 20 per cent of those parents surveyed experienced a job loss in their family. Many of them were expatriates, who also reported experiencing a significant decline in their relationship with their children.
A total of 835 parents and their children participated in the study, of which 69 per cent were residents.
The research also showed positive changes with healthier eating habits and more active lifestyles with both parents and their children.
Fathers in particular did more physical activity as opposed to mothers, who reported higher levels of stress.
“Historical pandemic research shows that staying healthy and feeling psychologically safe are some of the key challenges of living in a pandemic," said Jocelyn Belanger, associate professor of psychology, New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).
"Our Covid-19 research reveals that this is the area where the current pandemic has had the greatest impact in the lives of families with young children."
Perceived economic hardship was stable for parents with children aged 4-8 years, but significantly increased for parents with children aged 0-3 years.
“The present research addresses an important gap in knowledge regarding the impact of Covid-19 on families with young children living in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi," said Antje von Suchodoletz, assistant professor of psychology, NYUAD.
"The key takeaway from our research is that the current pandemic produced important lifestyle changes for parents and young children."
The partnership between NYUAD and the ECA was an effort to strengthen ties between local organisations and universities and research centres.
“This collaboration further supports our endeavours to develop and implement an effective early childhood development research ecosystem, to inform evidence-based policymaking, provide the best resources, and conduct high-quality research," said Hamda Mohamed Al Suwaidi, a researcher at the ECA.
Mr Al Suwaidi said the research was a cornerstone for future studies with the aim of developing evidence-based services, programmes and policies.
The ECA seeks to support early childhood-related research to help inform policy and legislation development, as well as applying research to overcome challenges affecting young children in Abu Dhabi.
They are responsible for reviewing, adjusting, and issuing policies in the early childhood sector.
Last week, the President, Sheikh Mohamed, congratulated companies that took part in an initiative to make their workplaces more parent-friendly.
Launched in May last year by the ECA, the Parent-Friendly Label provides criteria that employers can adopt to be recognised for their parent-friendly policies, practices and culture.
The initiative also supports working parents as they care for their children, and encourages a better work-life balance.