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COVID-19, In-Person Schooling, & Children's Mental Health

Written by Nanxi Xu
Published on September 8, 2021
Research Highlights

Childhood depression, anxiety and behavioral/conduct problems have been prevalent since before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, children’s mental health challenges have increased over the last year and a half due to difficulty coping with the changes and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Many families report increased behavioral problems for their children, including irritability, disruptive behavior, clinginess, and substance abuse. As most students return to in-person learning this fall, children are dealing with challenges related to both COVID-19 and adapting to new school environments. The children who are most likely to experience negative mental health consequences during this time include children of color, homeless youths, and children living in low-income communities.


  • New school environments and COVID-19-related restrictions can exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems during the back to school transition.
  • Students living in underserved communities (e.g., racial minorities, low-income students) are more likely to experience mental health problems during the back to school transition.
  • Universal screening in schools can be used to identify and support at-risk children. Schools may also collaborate with community partners to deliver mental health care to students.
  • In addition to staffing mental health professionals, school communication strategies can give families the tools to effectively support their children.


  • The most recent data on children’s mental health problems were collected before school started this fall. Additional monitoring is required to understand how the return to in-person learning this year will impact student mental health. 
  • Data reported in this science note were collected from national samples rather than specifically from Missouri. 
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