Contextual factors impacting adolescent mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic



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In March 2020, schools across the United States were shut down in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a sudden loss of normalcy in routines and social connections. This disruption continued for an extensive amount of time, with varying degrees of intensity as new waves of the disease hit different areas at differing times. Adolescents thrive upon connection with others. Students were educated in a combination of virtual, hybrid, and in-person modalities. However, little is known about the impact of virtual and hybrid settings on mental health, such as anxiety and depression, and whether school connectedness might mediate these relationships. To fill this important gap in the literature, the purpose of the present study was to use quantitative survey methodology to assess the relationships between the percentage of time spent in virtual and hybrid learning and anxiety and depression levels of adolescents. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to determine whether adolescent connectedness with adults and peers might mediate these relationships. A total of 165 parent and adolescent pairs completed an online survey. Results indicated that greater proportions of time spent in hybrid and virtual learning were not related to higher levels of anxiety or depression, nor lower levels of school connectedness. However, a secondary exploratory analysis revealed that teacher behaviors during online learning, such as frequent check-ins, and the use of live platforms, social media, Padlets, non-academic live meeting times for socialization, and activities that foster peer connections and dialogue were associated with lower levels of anxiety, while live platforms for academic time were also associated with significantly lower levels of depression. These findings have important implications towards developing best practice guidelines for future extended school closures.



COVID, Coronavirus, Adolescents, Mental Health, School Connectedness, Ecological Model