Around 40,000 children have lost a parent due to COVID-19, study shows

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 9:06 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - An estimated 40,000 children have experienced the death of a parent from COVID-19, according to a new study published Monday.

The study published in JAMA Pediatrics says researchers found between 37,300-43,000 children had been affected by the death of a parent from the virus.

The researchers say Black children are disproportionately affected, making up only 14% of children in the U.S., but one-fifth of those who have lost a parent from the coronavirus.

The model used to determine the results in the study estimates each COVID-19 death leaves 0.078 children aged 0 to 17 without a parent, representing a 17.5% to 20.2% increase in parental bereavement without COVID-19. As of February, 37,300 children ages 0-17 had lost at least one parent from COVID-19. When accounting for excess deaths, the researchers believe 43,000 children have had a parent die from the virus.

To put this in perspective, the researchers cited that 3,000 children were left without a parent following the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Children who have lost a parent are at a higher risk for traumatic grief, depression, poor educational outcomes, and even unintentional death or suicide.

“Sudden parental death, such as that occurring owing to COVID-19, can be particularly traumatizing for children and leave families ill prepared to navigate its consequences,” researchers wrote in the study, adding “Moreover, COVID-19 losses are occurring at a time of social isolation, institutional strain, and economic hardship, potentially leaving bereaved children without the supports they need.”

The study notes that the estimates rely on demographic modeling, and do not contain survey or administrative data. The study does also not include bereavement of nonparental primary caregivers.

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