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Pandemic Stress Hitting Many Parents Hard

June 05, 2020

More than 4 out of 10 parents with children at home report high stress levels dealing with managing online learning and other pressures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an online survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).

“For many parents, it can feel overwhelming to face competing demands at home and work along with possible financial challenges during this crisis,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, chief executive officer of the APA. “Children are keen observers and often notice and react to stress or anxiety in their parents, caregivers, peers, and community. Parents should prioritize their self-care and try their best to model healthy ways of coping with stress and anxiety.” 

The survey was taken by 3013 adults who live in the United States. Conducted by The Harris Poll from April 24 to May 4, 2020, the survey is the first of at least 3 monthly surveys the APA has planned to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and stress.

According to the survey, 46% of parents say their average stress level is now high, compared with just 28% of adults without children younger than 18. Some 71% of parents say managing online learning for children is a significant source of stress. 

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Access to food and housing is a significant source of stress for 70% of parents, access to healthcare is a significant source of stress for 66% of parents; and missing major milestones, such as weddings and graduation ceremonies, is a significant source of stress for 63% of parents, the survey found. Less than half of adults without children consider each a significant source of stress.

Meanwhile, the economy is a significant source of stress for 70% for adults, compared with 46% in an APA poll from 2019. Seven in 10 employed adults say work is a significant stressor, compared with 64% last year.

Communities of color are experiencing a disproportionate levels of stress, according to the survey. Compared with white adults, adults of color are more likely to report concerns over getting COVID-19, basic needs, and access to healthcare as significant sources of stress. 

“The mental health ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic are immense and growing,” Dr. Evans said. “We need to prepare for the long-term implications of the collective trauma facing the population. On an individual level, this means looking out for one another, staying connected, keeping active, and seeking help when necessary.”

—Jolynn Tumolo 


American Psychological Association. Stress in America 2020: Stress in the Time of COVID-19, Volume One. May 2020.

APA Stress in America Report: high stress related to coronavirus is the new normal for many parents [press release]. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; May 21, 2020.

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