ESRC funding to examine impact of Covid-19 on teens
20 August 2021
We are really grateful to have received this award from the ESRC UKRI Covid-19 Emergency fund.
Listen to us! The psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on adolescents – a mixed-methods study.
PI, Liat Levita. Co-I, Jilly Gibson Miller, Richard Bentall, Kate Bennett (University of Liverpool) and Liam mason (UCL)
The continued impact of COVID-19 on adolescent mental health, educational attainment and future prospects is of great concern. The aim of our proposed study is to capture the experiences of adolescents as the pandemic unfolds and longer-term societal and economic consequences emerge.
Adolescents may be of particular risk for adverse effects due to COVID-19 as this is a period of increased risk for developing psychopathology (Fairchild 2011, Paus et al 2008), as well as a crucial time for establishing personal identity/independence. During this period, peer relationships are especially important (Albarello et al 2018, Hay & Ashman 2003, Steinberg & Morris 2001). Hence, the normal developmental processes of adolescence are likely to be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, there are individual differences in responses to adversity so that not all individuals exposed to the same stressors will experience adverse effects or impaired mental health (Cicchetti 2010) and some exhibit better-than-expected responses to adversity, a phenomenon known as ‘resilience’ (Galatzer-Levy et al 2018, Masten 2011, Yule et al 2019). This study has been designed to explore which factors (eg, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, family function, decision-making abilities) determine the impact of the pandemic on young adolescents.
The basis for this work was established just over a year ago when we conducted an online survey to examine the impact of Covid-19 on young people aged 13-24 (n = 2002, stratified by age, ethnicity and deprivation index) as part of the COVID-19 Research Consortium Study (C19PRC, https://osf.io/v2zur/wiki/home/).
Our findings revealed unique challenges faced by younger adolescents in terms of the impact of the pandemic on their mental health and highlighted the importance of key factors that are not currently being addressed, eg, young people’s social and psychological adjustment and difficulty in enacting health behaviours (Levita et al 2020a, Levita et al 2020b).
Due to a lack of resources, this study did not include follow-ups or further exploration of the lived experience of the pandemic from young people themselves. Consequently, our objective is now to build on this work and enrich the self-report data to more accurately profile the mental health and well-being of adolescents, by following a representative sub-sample aged 13-16 from our original cohort one year on.
In a rapidly changing context, we hope that this work will help policymakers understand, from young people’s perspective, which groups of young people need support to aid their well-being; when they need support and what kind of support they would like, from evidence-based research.