SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – A recent nationwide survey 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 people with children. Many parents still had to physically work at a location outside of home, while also trying to run errands at grocery stores or other public places.
Some, it seems, even tried to curtail COVID policies or guidelines because they felt it was their right as parents to makes these decisions for their kids, the survey suggests.
“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, co-conducted by University of Utah Health researchers, 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 they thought or knew had COVID didn’t reveal the sickness to someone who was with the child. The same parents who lied or misrepresented their child’s COVID status (or nonadherence to guidelines) were also more likely to allow their child to break quarantine rules.
The main reason parents either lied or didn’t follow guidelines was to keep autonomy over how to parent their children, according to the study.
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 knew they should.
Parents didn’t just lie to avoid COVID restrictions, either. 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 by staying home. Other parents reported being confused about COVID policies, or claimed that their kid didn’t feel very sick.
Researchers for the study said the results illustrate how public health measures may have been compromised due to parents lying 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-19 pandemic, including future waves affecting weary parents, as well as future infectious disease outbreaks,” wrote the study’s authors.