Post-traumatic growth during the #COVID-19 pandemic in carers of children in Portugal and the UK: cross-sectional online survey

Although the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health have attracted interest, little attention has focused on its positive effects and possible post-traumatic growth.

To assess anxiety, well-being and post-traumatic growth in carers of children aged 6–16 years in Portugal and the UK.

A cross-sectional online survey of volunteers conducted at the peak of the first wave of COVID-19 during lockdown (1 May to 27 June 2020).

A total of 385 caregivers (Portuguese, n = 185; UK, n = 200), predominantly mothers (n = 341, 88.6%), completed the survey. The majority were working exclusively from home (n = 271, 70.4%), almost half reported a reduction in income (n = 174, 45.2%), most children were home taught (n = 358, 93%), and 75 (19.5%) identified a family member with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

In total, 341 caregivers (88.6%) identified positives arising from COVID-19, most commonly related to the post-traumatic growth domains of improved relationships, a greater appreciation of life, discovering and embracing new possibilities, and positive spiritual change. A comparison of those who did (n = 341) and did not (n = 34) report any positives found a significant difference in well-being scores (t373 = 2.24, P = 0.025) but not in anxiety scores (t373 = 0.75, P = 0.45).

Despite experiencing considerable adversity, examples of post-traumatic growth during the lockdown were common. Although the voluntary online nature of our survey is a limitation, our findings suggest that further research exploring post-traumatic growth following pandemics is warranted.