Research to explore how coronavirus upheaval has hit family life

Researchers from Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute are exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyday life including physical activity patterns, sleep and dietary intake of Australian families.

Led by nutrition expert and Caring Futures Institute’s Better Lives theme lead, Professor Rebecca Golley, researchers will look at how Australian parents and caregivers are managing family life during COVID-19, and the pandemic’s impact on parents’ self-care behaviours.

“We hope to understand how parents are managing family life and self-care (including exercise, sleep and nutrition) after such upheaval,” Prof Golley says. “This will enable us to manage the impacts of such events in the future, creating more resilient communities.”

The research team is recruiting caregivers via an online survey to collect information on themselves, their lives, their families and their roles in terms of care-giving and domestic duties.

This will be followed by a phone interview where information is collected about participants’ use of time, physical activity patterns and dietary intake. They will then be involved in an online story completion task where they will be provided with a hypothetical story about family life during COVID-19, which they then complete themselves.

The researchers will compare the self-care behaviours of parents and caregivers against existing data to determine how the pandemic has impacted sleep, physical activity, and dietary habits of Australian parents.

Data from the survey data and the story completion task will then help to unpack the impacts of the pandemic on family life, with a particular focus on how satisfied parents are with aspects of family life.

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From the research, strategies and recommendations will be identified based on families’ lived experience of managing situations of social upheaval.

Professor Golley says the team expects to confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused families to change their care-giving habits in terms of domestic duties and self-care.

“Working from home, home schooling, changes in social life and leisure time has changed as a result of COVID-19. We expect to discover that this has changed the way in which we live, study and work as a result of COVID-19,” she says.

“Notwithstanding the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, we hope that there may have been some positive impacts upon the division of labour in households resulting from more flexibility in work schedules for example.”

The project brings together allied health professionals, psychologists, sociologists, health service researchers from across Flinders University. The team comprises Prof Golley, Dr Sarah Hunter, Dr Rebecca Feo, Dr Kate Ridley, Prof Damien Riggs and Prof John Coveney.

The project came out of an activity run by the Caring Futures Institute in 2019, titled Fathers in Family Life. The forum brought together academics, practitioners and fathers and produced a set of key research priorities.

By looking at the role of fathers in family life from different perspectives, the team identified a an opportunity to develop greater understanding of families and relationships.

The research team are recruiting for participants of the study. Research participants must be parents or caregivers of children up to 18 years of age, and where there is another adult in the household. The online survey is available via this link

An infographic explaining the project.
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