Background: The COVID-imposed social isolation of Japanese mothers has significantly increased their already existing sense of loneliness. We report here on the changes that have occurred in the environment of home childcare and in the mother’s feelings of loneliness during the pandemic and we compare these findings with results from a similar previous study we conducted in 2019.
Methods: In 2019, we conducted an online survey of mothers who had infants aged 4-12 months. Many of the survey questions at that time concerned the home childcare environment and the mother’s sense of loneliness. In 2020, during the height of this COVID pandemic, we conducted a follow-up COVID impact survey using the same questionnaire, of a different group mothers, again having infants of 4-12 months, to determine the impact of the pandemic on the mothers of extra-vulnerable young children.
Results: The number of women who consulted with their friends or neighbors about childcare during the pandemic had decreased from the more normal times of early 2019, whereas in 2020 there was an increase in the number who consulted with their mother. The mother’s method of gathering childrearing information had shifted away from the face-to-face focus of 2019 to a habit of calling a municipal health center or using social-networking-services (SNS) as a reference. The rate was decreased of a mothers’ frequency of interaction with other parents having children at home as old as their own child. Overall, the number of mothers who felt loneliness was significantly increased.
Conclusions: Because of the impact on mothers of the COVID pandemic, specifically around their methods of gathering information concerning childcare, we found that the child-rearing 3 environment in Japan has detrimentally changed since early 2019. Whether or not the mother felt stressed or felt they lacked sufficient information concerning childcare was associated with having an impact on the mother’s sense of loneliness. The importance of the appropriate transmission of information concerning childcare had increased due to this pandemic, so we need to take aggressive actions to help these mothers of small children to prevent harm and tragedies from occurring to the children in their care.