Teenagers’ Negative and Positive Responses to the Pandemic

A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health monitored the impact of Covid-19 on adolescents who completed mental health surveys before and during the early months of the pandemic.

Loneliness and Depression in Adolescents

There were changes in personal interactions with friends, who they were spending far less time with, which was found to be emotionally distressing. Even though they could communicate electronically, there was a lack of emotional connection and a lessening in support from their friends. This led to higher depressive symptoms. Conflict with friends during the pandemic led to more loneliness. Perceived increases in family conflict during Covid-19 related to more depressive symptoms and more loneliness.

Teenagers’ Negative and Positive Responses to the Pandemic
COVID-19 pandemic has both positive and negative effects on Teenagers. Image/Shutterstock

One boy said, “With my friends, no one talks to me anymore” (Hispanic male, 14) Another expressed, “All my friends are still in touch on social media, but it sucks not being able to go get a burger or something.” (African American male, 15)

Mood fluctuations are more common in adolescents who experience more intense emotions. Also, adolescence is a time when intimacy from friendships is important. If these social interactions are severely curtailed or taken away, there is a correlating rise in loneliness and depression.

Lack of Social Activities

Some young people were stressed about not getting out of the house and socializing with friends and family. They were upset about not being able to compete in sports and extra-curricular activities at school or church, synagogue, or mosque. “Not being able to play on my basketball team, this makes me really angry, sad, and depressed.” (Hispanic female, 15) However, others like having time alone to care for themselves.

Online learning was creating stress for some.

Anxiety about spreading the virus

Some teenagers experienced anxiety about spreading the virus, “I’m worried about my parents and grandparents getting Covid-19. Will they survive it? I’m afraid to hug [them]. I could be asymptomatic and give it to them.” (African American male, 15)

No Benefits to the Isolation of the Pandemic

Teenagers who said there were no benefits to the isolation of the pandemic commented:

  • “No [benefits].” (white female, 14)
  • “Not at all [benefits}, truth be told.” (African American male, 17)
  • “No, it has been mostly bad, mentally and emotionally.” (Hispanic female, 15)
  • “Not really, I get a little depressed sometimes because I’m missing out on my high school years.” (white male, 14)

More Quality Time Spent With Parents

Adolescents reported more time spent with their parents, which was taken positively. There was more family support and less family discord. It seems to have been for some young people, a time to bond with their parents and siblings.

Some reactions of the teenagers follow:

  • “Getting to spend time with my dad because he doesn’t have to go to work.” (white male, 16)
  • “I still have my mom and dad here with me. My dad still helps me work on my baseball skills.” (Hispanic male, 14)
  • “It made me talk to my parents a lot more, so I have a better understanding of family stuff.” (white female, 14)
  • “With my father, I found that he cares for me more than I thought.” (African American female, 17)
  • “Yes, I love being with my mom.” (white female, 14)
  • “Yes, I have a better bond with my mother and my sister although my sister still gets on my nerves, lol.” (African American male, 16)
  • “We do a lot together; my dad is getting creative ways to get us to learn and things for us to do.” (Hispanic male, 15)

Too Much Family Time Difficult

However, a significant minority of adolescents experienced increased family conflict and/or decreasing support from their parents. Although many families functioned well during the early months of the pandemic, others faced challenges by changes in the family system.

Some adolescents found too much family time difficult. They were upset about the lack of privacy. One girl said, “To actually get private time in my room is hard, Everyone’s home so there’s always someone knocking on my door.” (white female, 14) For some, this caused irritability and tension. One boy said, “I spent time with my mom a lot before, now we’re both so stressed and agitated that it’s putting a strain on our relationship.” (white male, 17)

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Negative and Positive Effects on Adolescents

It would appear that the coronavirus pandemic has been a mixed bag for adolescents who, on the one hand, have been cut off from socializing with their peers, but who for some, have strengthened familial bonds. Creative ways to deal with the struggles need to be explored while maintaining the positive outcomes of quality time with family and more creative time spent alone.

One young woman summed it up well when she said, “I guess I can say that this time has given me the opportunity to think and realize how important people are to me.” (African American female, 16)

5 sources

J Adolescent Health, 2021 Jan; 68(1):43-52 Adolescents’ Perceived Socio-Emotional Impact of COVID-19 and Implications for Mental Health: Results From a U.S.-Bases Mixed-Methods Study Authors: Adam A. Rogers, Ph.D., Thao Ha, Ph.D., and Sydney Ockey
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Marianne Zanko Komek

Marianne Zanko Komek has been a freelance journalist for eleven years. Prior to that, she worked as a production editor and editorial a

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