One in ten young children did not play with friends during the coronavirus pandemic


- by Marrit van der Burgh

During the period that primary schools were closed, 11% of young children did not play with children from outside their own family. In addition, one in three parents did not understand all of the teaching material for children in the top class. These findings come from the Lifelines Corona study carried out by the University of Groningen (UG) and the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). The study provides insight into how over 2,000 families with children of primary school age managed home schooling while the schools were closed. 


The health of the children that did not play with other children was comparable with that of other children, but their parents often belonged to vulnerable groups. Yet the group of parents with no health concerns were more worried about them or their children falling ill: 16% of these parents were stricter about their own behaviour than was stipulated in the government’s coronavirus measures, compared with 3% of the other parents. Initiator of the study Prof. Lude Franke (UMCG) explains: ‘Figures from the Corona Barometer show that throughout the pandemic, people in the Northern Netherlands responded differently to developments and measures. Some people gradually took less notice of the measures, while others started to take them more seriously. As a result some parents decided not to let their children play with other children.’


Most parents understood the teaching material given to their primary school children. However, the top class (Year 6) forms an exception: 20% of parents with an academic education did not always understand the teaching material. This figure was 39% for parents with a vocational education. Men found it easier to understand the teaching material for the highest two groups, while women had less difficulty with understanding and explaining the material for the children in the reception classes and Year 1. 

Frustration and resilience

More clear differences were observed between men and women: men got less frustrated about home schooling, while women were more likely to describe it as a good experience. Women were also better at switching between being a teacher and being a parent, and more able to cope with teaching children of different age groups. The size of the family also played a role. Nine percent of parents with one child were frustrated by home schooling, while only two percent of parents with three or more children said that they became frustrated. 

More findings from the Lifelines Corona study are available on

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