Master of Science
Hayden, Elizabeth P.
Most studies of adolescents’ internalizing symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic have included few data waves, limiting long-term conclusions about adolescents’ mental health during the pandemic. Collecting only a few waves of data precludes examination of intraindividual symptom variability, which may have implications for adjustment beyond mean symptoms. We characterized mean n = 192 adolescents’ internalizing symptoms from March 2020-April 2021 and used mixed effect location scale models to examine established risk factors as predictors of mean trends and intraindividual variability in adolescents’ internalizing symptoms. Adolescents’ symptoms were relatively stable and low over the first year of the pandemic; severity peaked in February and April 2021. Girls showed greater symptoms and greater intraindividual variability in symptoms. Adolescents’ internalizing symptoms and intraindividual variability in symptoms increased as parents’ depressive symptoms increased, while intraindividual variability in adolescents’ internalizing symptoms decreased as parents’ anxious symptoms increased. Implications for intervention and prevention are discussed.
Summary for Lay Audience
Although many have speculated that the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt adolescents’ mental health, most research so far has only studied adolescents’ symptoms of depression and anxiety in the early months of the pandemic, limiting conclusions that can be drawn about the long-term impact of the pandemic on adolescents’ mental health. Only studying adolescents’ symptoms at a few times early in the pandemic also prevents researchers from examining variation in symptoms within individual adolescents, which may be important for understanding adolescents’ adjustment to the pandemic. In this study, we examined the depressive and anxious symptoms of a large number of adolescents over the first year of the pandemic (March 2020-April 2021; average number of adolescents at each time point = 192). We also studied adolescent sex, socioeconomic status, and parents’ depressive and anxious symptoms during the pandemic as predictors of adolescents’ symptoms during the pandemic, as well as within-person variability in adolescents’ symptoms. Compared to boys, girls showed greater symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as more within-person variation in symptoms over the first year of the pandemic. As parents’ depressive symptoms increased, adolescents’ depressive and anxious symptoms increased, along with within-person variability in adolescents’ symptoms. As parents’ anxious symptoms increased, within-person variability in adolescents’ depressive and anxious symptoms decreased. Takeaways for efforts to treat and prevent adolescents’ depressive and anxious symptoms are discussed.
Green, Haley Elizabeth, "Characterizing and Predicting Canadian Adolescents’ Internalizing Symptoms in the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8669.