Relationships Australia’s partnership with Griffith University, and the University of Worcester UK and Relate UK continues to explore the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on society, families and relationships with the launch of Phase 2 of the international study Families Un-lockedin Australia.
“We asked people to reflect on the effects of the first lockdown on their families and relationships,” said Dr Gabriela Misca, expert in child and family psychology and the research principal investigator from the University of Worcester.
Preliminary findings from Phase 1 have shown that those impacts have been expansive and are ongoing.
“Just as health research has discovered that some people are suffering from long-term physical effects of the virus – ‘long-Covid’, some initial findings of Families Un-locked show that the pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions imposed will have enduring impacts on our relationships”, said Mr Nick Tebbey, National Executive Officer, Relationships Australia.
Over 750 people in Australia participated in Phase 1 of Families Un-Locked, with over 900 people participating across the UK.
“Given the differing situations and responses to the pandemic between Australia and the United Kingdom, it has been very interesting to note the similarities and differences highlighted in the initial findings in Phase 1”, said Dr Misca.
In the UK sample, almost half of those identified as being in a couple relationships (45%) felt that lockdown put a real strain on their relationship and a quarter reported that worrying about the pandemic caused tension in their relationship; and a similar proportion reported that money worries placed added pressure on their relationship. In contrast, the Australian sample revealed a smaller proportion of respondents (approximately a quarter of couples) felt that lockdowns put a strain on their relationship and one in five couples (20%) reported that worrying about the pandemic caused tension in their relationships. Despite these more positive reports from Australia, a third of Australian respondents felt that money worries had added additional pressures on their relationships, which is slightly more than in the UK sample.
A concerning finding in Phase 1 shows that almost a third of the UK couples reported that the lockdown had a negative impact, worsening their already struggling relationships, whereas in comparison, this was the case for 13% of the Australian couples.
The vast majority of parents in both countries reported enjoying spending time with their children during lockdown, however, these initial findings show three quarters felt overwhelmed by the childcare responsibilities and have been anxious about their children’s education.
“A narrow focus on what has been bad about the pandemic and its scars on our families and relationships will miss the opportunities that this crisis has inadvertently given us, such as the opportunity to change our ways of relating to each other that have been taken for granted; and the opportunity to find better and more sensitive ways to support each other in the future”, said Dr Misca.
While a significant finding of the study points to people’s fears for the future and how the impacts of the pandemic might affect them socially and economically, initial findings of Phase 1 also found that just over a third of UK couples (36%) and just over half of Australian couples felt that lockdown has been a positive experience for them; and that about four in 10 UK couples reported that following lockdown they felt they were closer than before while over half of Australian couples reported the same experience.
“These initial findings from Phase 1 of the study undoubtedly reflect the differing experiences of families in Australia and the UK as we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the future.
“Today we launch Phase 2 of Families Un-locked in Australia. This Phase will look deeper at the medium to long-term impacts of the pandemic on relationships and family life, and help develop new ways to support all people during public health crises.
“Relationships Australia encourages all people in Australia and the UK to participate in Phase 2 of the study. By doing so you will help build happier and healthier individuals, families and communities”, said Mr Tebbey.