The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected the psychophysical wellbeing of children worldwide. Alexithymia, a personality trait involving difficulties in identifying and expressing feelings represents a vulnerability factor for stress-related disorders. Under pandemic stress exposure, we aimed to investigate the role of parents’ and children’s alexithymia in the psychophysical symptomatology shown by children and to evaluate possible differences according to age, gender and history of COVID-19 infections. The perception of parents and children about the impact of the pandemic on children’s emotional, social and physiological wellbeing was also explored. Sixty-five familial triads were surveyed in the period from March to May 2022: children (n = 33 males; mean age = 9.53, sd = 1.55), mothers (mean age = 44.12; sd = 6.10) and fathers (mean age = 47.10; sd = 7.8). Both parental and children’s alexithymia scores were significantly associated with somatic and externalizing symptomatology in children. Self-reported anger and externally oriented thinking scores were higher in younger children (age 8–9.9 years) than in older ones (10–12 years). Girls scored higher than boys in somatic complaints, as reported by parents. No difference emerged between children affected/not affected by COVID-19. Notably, children reported a greater negative impact of the pandemic on their emotional and psychosocial well-being than their parents. The findings emphasize the role of alexithymia in the occurrence of psychophysical symptoms in children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduced parental awareness of the emotional burden imposed by the pandemic on children indicates the need to better consider how epidemics affect children’s mental health and to develop adequate preventive strategies to support them in these exceptional times.

Somatic, Emotional and Behavioral Symptomatology in Children during COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Children’s and Parents’ Alexithymia

Alessia Renzi
;
Giulia Conte;Renata Tambelli
2022

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected the psychophysical wellbeing of children worldwide. Alexithymia, a personality trait involving difficulties in identifying and expressing feelings represents a vulnerability factor for stress-related disorders. Under pandemic stress exposure, we aimed to investigate the role of parents’ and children’s alexithymia in the psychophysical symptomatology shown by children and to evaluate possible differences according to age, gender and history of COVID-19 infections. The perception of parents and children about the impact of the pandemic on children’s emotional, social and physiological wellbeing was also explored. Sixty-five familial triads were surveyed in the period from March to May 2022: children (n = 33 males; mean age = 9.53, sd = 1.55), mothers (mean age = 44.12; sd = 6.10) and fathers (mean age = 47.10; sd = 7.8). Both parental and children’s alexithymia scores were significantly associated with somatic and externalizing symptomatology in children. Self-reported anger and externally oriented thinking scores were higher in younger children (age 8–9.9 years) than in older ones (10–12 years). Girls scored higher than boys in somatic complaints, as reported by parents. No difference emerged between children affected/not affected by COVID-19. Notably, children reported a greater negative impact of the pandemic on their emotional and psychosocial well-being than their parents. The findings emphasize the role of alexithymia in the occurrence of psychophysical symptoms in children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduced parental awareness of the emotional burden imposed by the pandemic on children indicates the need to better consider how epidemics affect children’s mental health and to develop adequate preventive strategies to support them in these exceptional times.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11573/1657774
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