11 August 2022
Salary, language skills, or characterNew Study Highlights What Helped Families in the Corona Crisis
Photo: Pixabay CC0
“We already know that individual factors, for example resources such as housing, income, or education, affect people during the pandemic,” explains sociologist Prof. Dr. Manderscheid from Universität Hamburg. “However, we wanted to know which factors are at work in everyday life and whether the consequences of the measures hit disadvantaged population groups harder than better-situated ones.”
To find that out, in the summer and fall of 2021 Manderscheid asked families from different socioeconomic backgrounds how they experienced the pandemic. Lorenz Gaedke and Ammar Ćuk from Universität Hamburg and the infas institute for social research in Bonn were also involved. The surveys were conducted online and on site in Bremerhaven and Schwerin and involved detailed interviews.
Mandscherscheid identified 4 categories of factors. These were available resources; structural conditions such as the possibility to organize one’s own working time; additional burdens such as pregnancy, illness, or problems with authorities; and so-called “habitual dispositions”—that is, character traits and skills gained while growing up and that determine how people view a situation or what possible courses of action they perceive. This pre-programmed orientation is not something we freely choose and remains relatively stable throughout life.
“People with a more ascetic habitus are disciplined and methodical. Fulfilling obligations plays an important role in their lives. Parents with this kind of habitus, for example, were prepared and in a position to sacrifice their free time and to do their work in the evenings so that they could homeschool their children during the day. Overall, they managed the pandemic better,” says Manderscheid. On the other hand, hedonistic parents who seek adventure and fun and prioritize the moment had difficulties maintaining a stable daily routine or supporting their children with homeschooling. This had negative impact on children’s academic achievements. And the parents, for example, quit continuing education programs because during lockdown the programs had gone online.
But it was the combination of various factors that was crucial. “The readiness of parents to sacrifice their own free time to take care of their children did not ensure they mastered the crisis any more successfully than having a large apartment or a high income alone,” explains Manderscheid. “As soon as families had problems in more than one area, their ability to handle the situation suffered enormously.”
The researchers want to publish their findings and make them available to policymakers this fall so that affected families have better support in the future. The project was financed through the Volkswagen Foundation’s Corona Crisis and Beyond—Perspectives for Science, Scholarship, and Society program. It ended in August 2022.