‘Staggering’ 40,000 US Children Likely To Have Lost A Parent To COVID, Study Finds

by : Cameron Frew on : 06 Apr 2021 13:50
‘Staggering’ 40,000 US Children Likely To Have Lost A Parent To COVID, Study FindsPA Images

Around 40,000 children in the US have likely lost a parent to COVID-19, according to a new study.

Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been more than 30.8 million confirmed cases of coronavirus across the US, with 555,000 deaths.


The latest ‘staggering’ figure comes from researchers at Stony Brook University in Long Island, who sought to estimate how many children have lost at least one parent to COVID-19.

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The study, published in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Pediatrics journal on Monday, April 5, suggests between 37,300 to 43,000 US children have lost a parent to coronavirus in the past year.

This comes via extrapolating the results of the research, with the study’s model estimating 0.078 children between infancy and age 17 have been left ‘parentally bereaved’, amounting to 17.5-20.2% more than it would have been without COVID-19.


‘Although the bereavement multiplier is small, it translates into large numbers of children who have lost a parent,’ the research letter explains, led by Rachel Kidman of the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University.

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It adds, ‘As of February 2021, 37, 300 children aged 0 to 17 years had lost at least one parent due to COVID-19, three-quarters of whom were adolescents. Of these, 20 600 were non-Hispanic white children and 7600 were non-Hispanic Black children.’

Dubbing the figure ‘staggering’, the authors warned the ‘burden will grow heavier as the death toll continues to mount’, even comparing to the figures of 9/11, from which 3,000 children lost a parent.


The research also noted Black children being ‘disproportionately affected’ by the pandemic. Despite making up just 14% of those under the age of 18 in the US, 20% lost a parent to COVID-19. The authors took care to note their estimates ‘rely on demographic modelling’ and don’t include the deaths of primary caregivers who weren’t a child’s parents.

The authors wrote, ‘Sudden parental death, such as that occurring owing to COVID-19, can be particularly traumatising for children and leave families ill prepared to navigate its consequences. Moreover, COVID-19 losses are occurring at a time of social isolation, institutional strain, and economic hardship, potentially leaving bereaved children without the supports they need.’

Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and professor at Duke University Medical Centre, who wasn’t involved in the study, told CNN how deaths from COVID may lead to ‘child traumatic grief, which is different than just grief itself’.


She said, ‘The normal activities related to death cannot happen, so a child that’s lost someone right now, no matter what the circumstances, but particularly due to COVID, make it so much more challenging because all the things that I would normally do, I can’t do, the family can’t do.’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Now, US


JAMA Pediatrics and 1 other
  1. JAMA Pediatrics

    Estimates and Projections of COVID-19 and Parental Death in the US

  2. CNN

    "Staggering" number of children have lost at least one parent to Covid-19, model estimates