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May 19, 2020

Experts Available on Child Development and COVID-19

TUCSON, Ariz. — The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way families work and live. With schools and child care facilities closed, parents are facing the challenge of caring for children and continuing education at home.

Research has shown that the most critical period in a child's cognitive, social and physical development is from birth to age 5. Interactions with caregivers – including parents, immediate family members and early childhood educators – shape a child's brain in ways that impact the child across the lifespan.

Researchers in the University of Arizona Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences can offer perspective and explain research on the importance of fostering young children's development during a time of unprecedented stressors.

The following experts are available to speak to media:

  • Melissa Barnett is an associate professor of family studies and human development and the director of the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth and Families. She can discuss how parents and other caregivers influence young children; the ways stressors related to COVID-19 might affect parents and children; how parents of young children can co-parent or work together; and the implications for children and families of the lack of access to child care outside the home.
  • Kate Speirs is an assistant professor of family studies and human development and a Cooperative Extension assistant specialist for early childhood. She can discuss how UArizona Cooperative Extension is supporting young children and their families and the early care and education workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of early care and education for promoting young children's health and wellness.  
  • Michele Walsh is an associate professor of family studies and human development and a Cooperative Extension associate specialist for evaluation. She can discuss the status of young children and their families across Arizona based on a variety of health, economic and educational indicators. She also can speak to the importance of high-quality child care and the challenges of access to early childhood care and education, particularly in the Tucson area.
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Researcher contacts:
Melissa Barnett
Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Kate Speirs
Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Michele Walsh
Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences
Media contacts:
Rosemary Brandt
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Joel Badzinski
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.