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Child psychology, Clinical psychology, COVID-19, Life stress, Psychology, Social support, Coronavirus disease 2019



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Prior research, including my initial research on the mental health of children inSouthwestern Ontario, highlighted the broad, widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of adults, children, and youth, globally, including the potential for social support to attenuate the harmful impact of the pandemic. Social support, one’s belief that others will help in times of need, may protect against the impact of myriad life stressors on the development of psychopathology. The present study examines the potential for social support to mitigate the longitudinal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s irritability and depressive symptoms. Families (N = 317) encompassing one child aged 8 to 13 and a parent or guardian reported on children’s perception of social support, irritability, and depressive symptoms at baseline assessment and seven follow-up assessments over nine months between June 2020 and December 2021. Although depressive and irritability symptoms fluctuated over time, children’s initial perception of social support availability from family and friends did not predict interindividual variability in irritability or depressive symptom change over time. Social support fluctuated over time but showed no systematic increase or decrease. At each monthly assessment, social support was associated with child- and parent- or guardian-report of children’s symptomatology; children self-reported, and parents or guardians observed, lower symptomatology on months when children reported higher social support. Findings highlight the importance of social support for pediatric depression and irritability and suggest that social support may be bolstered during public health crises to assist children.