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UBC Theses and Dissertations

“I’m going to change the WiFi password if you don’t go outside” : a temporal exploration of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on parenting practices Paterson, Derek


Background: Parenting practices have been found to be an important source of influence on the movement behaviours of children (Hutchens & Lee, 2018; Samaha & Hawi, 2017). Parenting practices may be susceptible to influence from external factors (Davison et al., 2013) and public health measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic likely impacted family life and the behaviours of family members. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore the impact of the pandemic on parenting practices over time and in doing so, examine the extent to which they are malleable in response to changing circumstances. Methods: One-on-one semi-structured interviews with 40 parents of school-aged children (aged 7-11) in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia (Canada) were conducted via Zoom in August, 2021 after the first 18 months of the pandemic. A narrative thematic analysis (Palomäki et al., 2013; Braun & Clarke, 2021) was undertaken to a) develop themes mapping the key impacts on parenting practices and b) organize the temporal patterns of impacts into shared case trajectories of those impacts over time. Results: Four primary themes were first constructed to highlight the pertinent changes in parenting practices: 1) Screen time permissiveness, 2) Force and coercion, 3) Parents as active agents of unstructured physical activity, and 4) Stepping back from structured physical activity. These impacts were temporally organized into three distinct case trajectories that each represent a shared, chronological narrative for how the first 18 months of the pandemic were broadly experienced by parents. The three trajectories were characterized as: 1) “back to business as usual” (resilience) 2) “Stuck in a rut” (enduring impact) and 3) “Upside to slowing down” (adaptive growth). Discussion: Parenting practices are malleable in response to changing circumstances and have been impacted in both temporary and enduring manners that may continue beyond the pandemic. Further research is needed to longitudinally assess these trajectories in order to support families and enhance the theoretical understanding of parenting practices.

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