The COVID-19 pandemic as a traumatic event and the associated psychological impact on families – A systematic review

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying containment measures can be conceptualized as traumatic events. This review systematically investigates trauma-related symptoms in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and the association of the pandemic and its containment measures with trauma-related disorders or symptoms.



Methods: The EBSCO (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PSYNDEX), Cochrane Library, and Web of Science databases were searched in June 2021. The Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies (EPHPP-QAT) was applied. Studies conceptualizing the COVID-19 pandemic as a traumatic event and assessing typically developing children and adolescents (under 18 years), and/or caregivers (at least 18 years) were included.



Results and limitations: 22 primary studies including 27,322 participants were evaluated. Only three primary studies executed a statistical comparison with pre-pandemic or retrospective data, showing a negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated measures on children's and caregiver's internalizing symptoms and hyperactivity. In the majority of the remaining studies, prevalence rates of various trauma sequelae in children, adolescents, and caregivers were reported to be descriptively higher in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to other pre-pandemic studies. However, due to numerous methodological differences between these studies the statement that the pandemic is associated with higher prevalence rates of trauma-associated symptoms cannot be validly answered at this point.



Conclusion: Due to some methodological shortcomings of the primary studies, our results might be cautiously interpreted as a first indicator of an association between the COVID-19 pandemic and trauma sequelae.




•  COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures as traumatic events for families?

•  22 primary studies with 27,322 participants were evaluated in this systematic review

•  Mostly descriptively higher prevalence rates of various trauma-associated symptoms in children, adolescents, and caregivers

•  3 studies found higher prevalences of internalizing problems and hyperactivity by statistically comparing with pre-pandemic or retrospective data

•  The methodology of most primary studies is of weak quality; hence our results should be interpreted cautiously


Lea Teresa Kaubisch, Corinna Reck, Alexandra von Tettenborn, Christian Franz Josef Woll | 2022
In: journal of Affective Disorders ; ISSN: 0165-0327 | 319 | 27-39
Adolescents, Anxiety Symptoms, Caregivers, Children, COVID-19 (en), Family Members, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychological distress, Psychosocial impact, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Systematic Review, Traumatic events