SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — A recent nationwide survey co-conducted by the University of Utah Health researchers found that about a quarter of parents misrepresented their child’s COVID-19 status or didn’t adhere to COVID-related guidelines during the pandemic.
The pandemic was a challenging time for many, but especially for parents with children. Many parents had to go to work or go out grocery shopping or other things in public. This led to some parents trying to curtail COVID policies or guidelines for one reason or another.
“These are really difficult decisions and people had to balance what’s right for their family and right for the community,” said University of Utah Department of Population Health Sciences Professor and Chair Angela Fagerlin. “I don’t want this study to demonize parents because we were all doing the best we could with the resources we had. It just really highlights the problem with relying on people that their kids aren’t going to be sick.”
The study analyzed 580 responses from a sample of over 1700 U.S. adults. These responses all came from parents who had a child under the age of 18 living with them during the pandemic.
In the most common situations, parents, who had a child that they thought or knew had COVID, didn’t tell someone who was with the child of their sickness. Parents who reported either misrepresenting their child’s COVID status or nonadherence to guidelines also most commonly reported allowing their child to break quarantine rules.
According to the study, the main reason parents either lied or didn’t follow guidelines was to keep autonomy over how to parent their children.
Of the 580 respondents, nearly 26% reported either lying or not following guidelines in at least one of seven behaviors. Aside from not telling people their kid was sick or breaking quarantine rules, parents also reported avoiding getting a COVID-19 test for their child, lying about being vaccinated or saying their child didn’t have to quarantine when they actually did.
Parents didn’t just lie to avoid COVID restrictions though. According to the study, some parents reported lying about their child’s age, saying they were older in order to get the vaccine. Other parents said they would claim their child was not vaccinated when they actually were.
“They were trying to get their kid vaccinated earlier which actually probably helped prevent illnesses in some cases,” said Fagerlin. “There was still some kind of concerns about that because as we know there was a reason the vaccines hadn’t been approved yet for the younger kids.”
While wanting to keep parental freedom over their children was reportedly the most common reason to lie or avoid COVID policy, it wasn’t the only reason.
According to the study, many parents said they wanted their children to have a pre-pandemic “normal” life or didn’t want them to miss a fun event to stay home. Other parents reported being confused about COVID policies or that their kid didn’t feel very sick.
Researchers for the study said the results show that many public health measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 may have been compromised due to parents on behalf of their children, ultimately raising the number of COVID-related cases and deaths.
“Our findings suggest a serious public health challenge in the immediate context of the COVID-10 pandemic, including future waves affecting weary parents, as well as future infectious disease outbreaks,” wrote the study’s authors.