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Social experiences and youth psychopathology during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 December 2022

Alexandra M. Rodman*
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Maya L. Rosen
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Steven W. Kasparek
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Makeda Mayes
Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
Liliana Lengua
Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
Andrew N. Meltzoff
Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
Katie A. McLaughlin
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Corresponding author: Alexandra M. Rodman, email:


The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated stay-at-home orders resulted in a stark reduction in daily social interactions for children and adolescents. Given that peer relationships are especially important during this developmental stage, it is crucial to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social behavior and risk for psychopathology in children and adolescents. In a longitudinal sample (N=224) of children (7-10y) and adolescents (13-15y) assessed at three strategic time points (before the pandemic, during the initial stay-at-home order period, and six months later after the initial stay-at-home order period was lifted), we examine whether certain social factors protect against increases in stress-related psychopathology during the pandemic, controlling for pre-pandemic symptoms. Youth who reported less in-person and digital socialization, greater social isolation, and less social support had worsened psychopathology during the pandemic. Greater social isolation and decreased digital socialization during the pandemic were associated with greater risk for psychopathology after experiencing pandemic-related stressors. In addition, children, but not adolescents, who maintained some in-person socialization were less likely to develop internalizing symptoms following exposure to pandemic-related stressors. We identify social factors that promote well-being and resilience in youth during this societal event.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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