School closures and parents’ mental health

Publication type



ISER Briefing Notes


Publication date

May 15, 2021


School closures have been one of the widest-spread and, in some countries, longest-lasting policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, having a profound impact on families. We know from our own previous research that school closures had a significant negative effect on children’s behavioural and emotional difficulties, and that this effect persisted even once all children had returned to school. We also know that adult mental health declined sharply in the early months of lockdown, more strongly for women than men. It is widely assumed that increased childcare and homeschooling responsibilities during school closures were partly to blame. We investigate this proposition directly by estimating the effect of school closures on parental mental health. We use data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). Our main analysis uses data from the Understanding Society COVID-19 survey collected during the pandemic in April, May, June, July, September and November 2020. This enables us to compare the dynamics of mental health amongst parents with different experiences of school closures in the summer of 2020.



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