Positive and negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on families of young children in rural Colombia and implications for child outcome research

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Child: care, health and development








COVID-19; preschool children; public health; resilience


BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of children and families worldwide. The objective of this study is to examine exposures and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on preschool-aged children and caregivers in the Atlántico region of Colombia. METHODS: The COVID-19 Exposure and Family Impact Scales (CEFIS) questionnaire was administered in Fall 2021 to 63 caregivers of children in Sabanalarga, Colombia enrolled in a neurodevelopment study as healthy controls. The CEFIS assesses pandemic-related exposures/events and impact; higher scores indicate greater exposure and negative impact. Descriptive and correlation analyses among exposure and impact scores were conducted. RESULTS: Caregivers reported a mean (standard deviation[SD]) of 11.1 (3.2) among 25 COVID-19-related exposures/events; most common types included stay-at-home orders, school closures, disruptions to living conditions and income loss. Total number of events was correlated with higher caregiver (P < .001) and child distress (P = .002). However, the mean (SD) impact score of 2.0 (0.6) suggests a trend toward more positive impact than negative. Caregivers reported improvements to sleep, exercise and family interactions. Some caregivers (n = 21) qualitatively reported negative effects including unemployment, fear/anxiety and inability to visit family, and positive effects such as unification, family closeness and spending more time with children. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the importance of comprehensively exploring positive and negative impacts of COVID-19 and families' subsequent resilience and transformation. Using tools like the CEFIS, those seeking to mitigate negative impacts can contextualize data to better understand study outcomes and tailor services, resources and policy to families' unique needs. CEFIS data likely depend on timing, economic/public health resources and cultural values; future work should prioritize understanding the generalizability of CEFIS findings across samples.