US parents told ‘serious and concerning’ lies about children’s covid status to keep them in school, study finds

A new study has shown that some parents in the United States misrepresented their child’s coronavirus status, allowing them to break quarantine or testing guidelines.

The study, which was published on 6 March in JAMA Network Open, surveyed answers from 580 parents with children under the age of 18 living with them during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the participants, nearly 26 per cent of parents said they chose to not disclose their child’s covid status.

The most common reason parents lied about their child’s vaccination or Covid-19 status was in order to “exercise personal freedom as a parent”. Some parents allowed their children to break quarantine rules so that they would not miss school, or wanted their child to maintain a “normal” life as well.

Meanwhile, 24 per cent of parents failed to tell someone who was in contact with their child that they thought or knew their child had the virus. Some were dishonest about their children’s vaccination status to allow them to participate in activities, while others said that they misrepresented their children’s ages to get them vaccinated before they were eligible for coronavirus vaccines.

As a result of the study, researchers suggest that the public health measures put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic – such as school closings, quarantine rules for children, and frequent testing – may have been “compromised” due to misrepresentation by parents on behalf of their children, and overall contributed to the spread of coronavirus.

Andrea Gurmankin Levy, a professor of psychology at Middlesex Community College in Connecticut and one of the lead authors of the study, said the behaviours by some parents were “serious and concerning” and “likely resulted in more Covid-19 cases and more deaths.”

“The pandemic created tremendous stress for all of us, but especially for parents,” she said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We need to do a better job of providing support mechanisms like paid sick leave for family illness, so that parents don’t feel like their only options are to be dishonest about their child having COVID-19 or having their child break quarantine rules.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimated that nine in 10 children in the US have been infected at least once by Covid-19 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. However, approximately 41 million children in the US, ages six months to 17 years, have yet to receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

In October 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration authorised the first Covid-19 vaccine to be given to children ages five to 11. By June 2022, children under the age of five were able to receive the vaccine, more than a year and a half after it was first offered to adults.