COVID-19 Unmasked

A prospective longitudinal study to determine the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of infants and preschool aged children and their families

Led by our collaborators in Queensland, COVID-19 Unmasked (Young Children) is an online prospective study launched in Australia and in several other countries to help understand the mental health impacts of the pandemic on young children aged one to five years and their families. The first wave of data collection was completed between May and July 2020. A total of 998 parents reported on their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, their own and their children’s wellbeing and worries. Many families described positive experiences during the first wave of lockdowns in Australia, including more quality family time together, increased connection with friends and family, and more appreciation and gratitude. No children and only one caregiver was diagnosed with COVID-19. However, children and parents have been affected in many ways. Mild to moderate emotional or behavioural difficulties in children were reported by 15-20% of parents. Tantrums, fears, worries, clinginess, low mood and sleeping difficulties were common. Some young children were confused about the pandemic and current restrictions and overestimated the risk of getting or transmitting the virus. Confusion, worries and unhelpful thoughts (e.g. that things will never be alright again) can cause increased sense of threat and have negative impact on a child’s wellbeing. Data collection will continue into late 2021. Following the longitudinal trajectory of child and family coping can best inform future disaster-related research and interventions.

Knowledge translation & Impact

Based on the initial findings of the COVID-19 Unmasked project, we prepared tip sheets to support parents, educators and professionals working with young children. The findings were successfully disseminated across different service providers and decision makers.

Strategic partners

  • Dr Alexandra De Young (lead partner)
  • Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH)
  • Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CHQ HHS)
  • Child Health Research Centre; School of Psychology, University of Queensland (UQ)

Funding partners

German Research Council (Project: 420503242)


Contact Name
Associate Professor Eva Alisic