Australian first study to track mental health of preschoolers

The effects of events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Australia’s bushfire disaster will be tracked and assessed in a groundbreaking survey of the country’s preschoolers.

University of Melbourne researchers say children aged 1-5 are under-represented in trauma and anxiety research as many people wrongly assume that they will simply bounce back after disruptive events, or not remember them.

The COVID-19 Unmasked online survey will help build a picture of how the pandemic and other recent disruptive events have affected young children, their parents, and family life.

The survey aims to understand how children of that age respond to major events as well as how to better support their emotional wellbeing.

University of Melbourne Research Fellow Dr Mira Vasileva said earlier research had shown that older children who experienced medical trauma, violence, natural disaster or another disruptive life event could struggle socially and at school.

Dr Vasileva said it was important to learn whether young children were affected and how, as it could impact their development.

“This age group is often neglected because people think they don’t understand what’s happening but they are also affected by the behaviour of their parents, who might be stressed by working at home or being in financial trouble,” Dr Vasileva said.

The 20-minute anonymous online survey is aimed at Australian caregivers of children aged 1-5 living in Australia or overseas.

Follow up surveys will be conducted three, six and 12 months later.

It runs until 30 June.