Mental health among parents and caregivers of children with support needs

This study examines the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on parents and caregivers of children with support needs with a larger pan-Canadian sample

Principal Investigators:

Dr. Jennifer Baumbusch, RN PhD

Angela Clancy: Family Support Institute; Executive Director

Family Co-researchers:

Amilamia Gordon

Chelsea Jokisch

Shawna Lamden-Bennett

Sue Sterling-Bur


Rachelle Hole, PhD

Emily Jenkins, RN, PhD

Esther Lee, MD FRCPC

Lise Olsen, RN, PhD


Ainsley Boudreau, PhD

Tracy Humphries

Joshua Myers

Tim Stainton, MSW

Pippa Rowcliffe

Mary Stewart

Karla Verschoor


Mental Health Research Canada

Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research

Funding Year(s):


Study Overview:

To date, research studies about the impact of the pandemic on parental mental health have largely conceptualized parents of children with special needs as a homogenous group or explored singular diagnostic groups or categories (e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder, medical complexity). This study allows for comparisons of mental health impacts with a larger pan-Canadian sample. We also compare mental health impacts between within the sample of parents of children with special needs based on diagnostic categories, individual factors of parent and child (e.g. gender, age, race, ethnicity, education, family structure, household income), and community factors (e.g. geographic location, size of community). This analyses will help identify specific strengths and vulnerabilities of different sub-groups, which can subsequently be used to customize supports. We will also explore existing knowledge about programs (e.g. peer-to-peer, one-on-one counseling) and promising practices (e.g. virtual/tele-health,enhanced respite) that help mitigate mental health impacts and foster family resilience.

The research objective is twofold: i) to understand the impact of COVID-19 and associated measures on the mental health of parents of children and youth with special needs in BC; and ii) to identify evidence-based programs and promising practices that can mitigate these mental health impacts. Knowledge mobilization activities (short and long-term) will be used to further amplify the results of this research.

Knowledge Translation:

Baumbusch, J., Clancy, A. & Jokisch, C. (March 31, 2022). Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the mental of families and caregivers with children and/or youth with support needs: MHRC Spotlight on Research.