Previous studies on the impact of COVID-19 indicate that pandemic-related distress increases risks for child maltreatment, although data on the scope of this problem are still scarce. Here, we assessed whether parents with toddlers (n = 206) more often used harsh discipline during the lockdown in the Netherlands compared to a matched parent sample collected prior to the pandemic (n = 1,030). Parents were matched on background characteristics using propensity score matching. We found that harsh parenting levels were significantly elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels. Harsh parenting behaviors with a low prevalence before COVID-19 increased most strongly: shaking, calling names, and calling the child stupid. These results suggest that parental tolerance for children’s disobedience is lower under the adverse circumstances of COVID-19 and, as a result, abusive parenting responses are more difficult to inhibit. Thus, a lockdown seems to increase risks for child maltreatment, underscoring the need for effective support strategies for at-risk families.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by a corona fast-track data grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; 440.20.013) awarded to MR. The general design of Generation R is made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Medical Center and the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMW), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the Ministry of youth and Families. The current study was also supported by a PhD grant to N.P.S. from Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan), Ministry of Finance Republic of Indonesia.
© The Author(s) 2021.