COVID-19 Stress and Child Behavior: Examining Discrimination and Social Support in Racially Diverse ECHO Cohorts

program collaborators for Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the additive or moderating influences of caregiver COVID-19–related stress, social support, and discrimination on children's behavior problems across racially diverse populations. Method: In this Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) cohort study (N = 1,999 caregiver/child pairs), we operationalized caregiver COVID-19–related stress in 2 ways: first, as the number of stressors (eg, financial concerns, social distancing); and second, as the level of pandemic-related traumatic stress symptoms reported via questionnaires administered between April 2020 and August 2022. At the same assessment visit, caregivers also reported their current levels of discrimination, and a subsample (n = 968) reported their emotional and instrumental support. Either concurrently or at a later assessment visit, caregivers reported on their children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems using the Child Behavior Checklist for Ages 6-18 (CBCL/6-18). Results: Multivariable analyses controlling for maternal education, marital status, child age, and child sex revealed that COVID-19–related stress (caregiver stressors and symptoms) and discrimination were positively associated, and that perceived support was negatively associated with child internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Unexpectedly, neither emotional nor instrumental support attenuated the relationship between caregiver COVID-19–related stressors nor traumatic stress symptoms and child behavior problems. In the subset of Black American participants, caregiver perceived discrimination moderated the relationship between caregiver COVID-19 traumatic stress symptoms and child internalizing problems, such that the association was stronger at higher levels of discrimination. Conclusion: Our findings highlight the potential importance of relieving caregiver stress and increasing caregiver social support to optimize children's behavioral outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-538
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • COVID-19
  • discrimination
  • externalizing
  • internalizing
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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