Hexbyte Glen Cove You're not imagining it: 3 ways COVID-19 has been extra hard on American parents thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove You’re not imagining it: 3 ways COVID-19 has been extra hard on American parents

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: UNC Covid Survey Project, Wave 3, September 2020

For over a year, Americans have been struggling with the challenges imposed on them by the global coronavirus pandemic. While all Americans have struggled, the pandemic has imposed three distinctive sets of burdens on the 64 million Americans living with children under the age of 18.

As those who have know firsthand, becoming a parent is a life-changing, challenging, long-term experience. Even before the , surveys showed that a majority of parents were struggling to balance their and their desire to spend quality time with their children.

Since March 2020, however, have had to negotiate their own workplace demands and other responsibilities with around-the-clock child care responsibilities. They have been spending hours every day helping their children navigate remote and hybrid schooling, while also taking on increased household tasks, like preparing multiple meals a day and cleaning more often because everyone is at home.

Stories in the have profiled specific families to illustrate powerfully how already overstretched parents are now taking on many more time-consuming responsibilities. Many parents feel they are failing to be good parents and not able to do their paying jobs well. In some cases, parents have had to leave their jobs to care for their children, even though this undermines their family’s financial security.

Profiles of specific families are eye-opening, but as social science researchers with extensive expertise in the American family, we looked at the broader picture. We have found that these anecdotes are indeed supported by nationally representative empirical data: This pandemic year has been harder for parents than almost anyone else, in terms of finances, physical health and mental health.

Finances and health

Life has been extra tough for parents in three specific ways, as shown in our analysis of national data on pandemic experiences, the UNC COVID Panel Study Wave 3, published in Social Science Quarterly.

People who are parents are more likely than those who do not have children to report losing their job during the pandemic. Parents are also more likely than those without children to report having experienced a worsening financial situation over the past year.

Parents are also more likely than those without children to report having had COVID-19. Why exactly this is the case is a question better answered by epidemiologists than by social scientists. But it seems plausible that the demands of parenthood are increasing parents’ risk.

When parents have to work outside the home to support their families, they must rely on others to care for their children. That means using day care, finding in-person schooling, paying a caregiver, or relying on friends and family. All of that is normal in nonpandemic times, but in a pandemic, every one of those options means expanding the pool of interpersonal contacts, increasing parents’ risk.

Fear was a constant factor this past year, for nearly everyone—but our research shows parents were more fearful and viewed COVID-19 as more of a threat than those without children. This finding is consistent with other research showing that parents, understandably, have a very strong desire to keep their children safe and that the act of caring for a child or children intensifies fears about possible threats.

The used in our research also included questions about mental health. Respondents were asked how often they have been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless; feeling nervous, anxious or on edge; and not being able to stop worrying or control their worrying.

Parents were more likely than those without children to report experiencing these problems. Mothers were the most likely to indicate that they were depressed, anxious and worried—but fathers were also more likely to report these negative feelings than were men without kids.

School-related stress

Beyond these three major categories of problems, schooling decisions added to the strain on parents. Despite parents’ economic and psychological strain, just 14% of the survey respondents supported a return to fully in-person school for their children.

Surveyed early in the 2020-21 school year, the plurality of parents, 49%, supported online learning, and 37% supported a hybrid option, which inherently increases in-person contact and therefore the potential for disease to spread. Caught between a need to do their jobs to support their families and critical concerns about the health and safety of their children, parents are in many ways in an impossible situation.

While the data in and of itself does not offer solutions to the significant toll of the pandemic on parents, it does show that the problems faced by parents are real. Parents who have been feeling overwhelmed over the past year should know that they are not alone. The challenges of parenting during the pandemic are real and widespread.



This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Citation:
You’re not imagining it: 3 ways COVID-19 has been extra hard on American parents (2021, April 16)
retrieved 17 April 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-youre-ways-covid-extra-hard.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Smaller plates help reduce food waste in campus dining halls thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Smaller plates help reduce food waste in campus dining halls

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Students in a university dining hall. Credit: University of Illinois

Food waste is a major problem in the U.S., and young adults are among the worst culprits. Many of them attend college or university and live on campus, making dining halls a prime target for waste reduction efforts. And a simple intervention can make a big difference, a University of Illinois study shows.

Shifting from round to oval plates with a smaller surface area can significantly reduce in dining halls, says Brenna Ellison, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE) and co-author on the study.

“Americans about 31% of the food that is available at the retail and consumer levels,” Ellison says. “All-you-can-eat settings [common in dining halls] are extra challenging, because there’s not the normal incentives to try to reduce waste on your own. When you pay a fixed amount of money to go and eat, you want to get your money’s worth.”

Ellison’s research team previously worked with University Housing at Illinois on an educational campaign to reduce waste.

“It wasn’t as successful as we expected it to be,” she says. “So University Housing wanted to see if changing the plates would be a more successful way to reduce waste.”

Thurman Etchison, assistant director of dining facilities and equipment operations at U of I, says a 2016 waste study in campus dining halls showed about 3.3 ounces (93.5 grams) of wasted food per meal served. That amounted to 14,875 pounds (6,747 kilograms) per week across six residential dining hall locations.

“When we think about food waste in our setting, it is important to note it is not just the resources to produce the food that are wasted,” Etchison says. “There is a great deal of energy, water and labor that go into the refrigeration, preparation, transportation, and serving of this food that is wasted as well. If that were not enough, there is also the wasted energy, labor, and water that go into disposing of that food. The food we waste costs us more per pound than the food that is eaten.”

Ellison and co-authors Rachel Richardson, former graduate student in ACE, and Melissa Pflugh Prescott, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, conducted the plate study in two University Housing dining halls on the U of I campus; both the round and oval plates were tested in each location, making sure to use the same menu for both plate types.

The researchers approached diners after they selected their food, and asked to take a picture of the plate and weigh the food. Diners then filled out a short survey, and when they were done eating and brought their tray to the dish return, the researchers again took a picture and weighed the remaining food.

The study included more than 1,200 observations, and the researchers found significant reductions in food selection, consumption, and waste when diners used the oval plates. Overall, food waste went down from 15.8% of food selected for round plates to 11.8% for oval plates. That amounts to nearly 20 grams (0.7 oz) less food waste per plate, which adds up to a lot for a dining hall that serves thousands of meals, Ellison notes.

The researchers did not weigh plates for any diners who went back for seconds, Ellison says. They did ask diners if they went back for seconds on the survey. Using this information, they estimated the potential effects of seconds and found it would not significantly change the results.

Ellison concludes that changing type is a viable strategy to reduce waste, though dining hall managers need to weigh the cost of purchasing new plates against the potential savings. Combining the direct-nudge approach of smaller plates with an education campaign may be even more effective, she notes.



More information:
Rachel Richardson et al, Impact of plate shape and size on individual food waste in a university dining hall, Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105293

Citation:
Smaller plates help reduce food waste in campus dining halls (2021, February 25)
retrieved 26 February 2021
from https://phys

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