What the science of child and adolescent development contributes to understanding the impacts of COVID-19
CITATION: Tomlinson, M., Richter, L. & Slemming, W. 2021. What the science of child and adolescent development contributes to understanding the impacts of COVID-19. South African Journal of Science, 117(1/2):8876, doi:10.17159/sajs.2021/8876.
The original publication is available at https://sajs.co.za/article
As of 8 September 2020, there were 27 236 916 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 891 031 deaths reported to the World Health Organization.1 The direct effects of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus) and COVID-19 (the disease caused by the virus) are infection (of which ~80% of people will have no or mild symptoms), serious illness (~15% requiring hospitalisation and ~5% ventilation) and death (<1%). Of all age groups, children (0–18 years of age) have the lowest risk of the direct effects of the virus and the disease. Understandably, because of this, much of the global focus has been on protecting the elderly and adults with co-morbidities and using country lockdowns to prevent community transmission. What has often been forgotten, however, is that children have the highest risk of all age groups of experiencing the indirect adverse effects of the pandemic and the effects to contain it. As ~20% of deaths occur amongst people over 65 years of age, many children will lose beloved grandparents and older relatives, and many will lose their primary caregiver. Newborn and young children may be separated from their mothers – an experience that can have long-term effects on children’s development.2 Other indirect effects result from actions and the knock-on effects of actions taken to prevent, control and treat the virus. These include societal lockdowns, isolation and quarantine with follow-on negative effects on income and food security, fear and panic, anxiety and depression, altered family and social relations, stigma and, in extreme cases, post-traumatic stress