A host of stressful events in 2020 may have harmed the social development of young adults

Summary: The stressful events of 2020 may have harmed the social development of young people at a crucial time in their lives, a new study reports.

Source: Personality and Social Psychology Society

2020 has been a particularly stressful year – with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and a contentious presidential election in the United States. New research shows that these crises may have impaired the social development of young adults at a critical time in their lives.

Previous research has examined the effect of stressors on social development across the lifespan, but this work reinforces the importance of young adulthood and how it can be shaped by external events.

“If all goes well, young adults select social networks, form friendships and romantic relationships, and find their professional niche,” says lead author Dr. Bühler of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. “Our results show, however, that external stressors and environmental variations can put young adults on a less fortunate path.”

Researchers compared the social development of 415 young adults in 2020 to that of 465 young adults in 2019. Over the course of eight months, the participants, aged 18 to 35, shared updates on several factors affecting their development .

Participants in 2020 reported lower levels of intimacy and relationship satisfaction over time, while the group surveyed in 2019 reported slightly higher levels of social support and inclusion over time. Although the changes were not drastic, Dr. Bühler notes that small effects can have lasting consequences.

“Environmental conditions and contexts are critical to development because they provide the opportunities people need to develop in healthy ways,” says Dr. Bühler. “In the case of 2020, the average youngster may have had fewer of these opportunities, which causes fear and anxiety while potentially hindering their development.”

For eight months, the participants, aged 18 to 35, shared updates on several factors affecting their development. Image is in public domain

It is also important to remember that these disruptive events are not limited to national or global crises. The study participants were based in Northern California, where they struggled with wildfires across the region.

Researchers have noticed wide variation in the effect of these stressors on individual participants and Dr. Bühler points to this as an important area for future study. Examining the coping mechanisms of those less affected, she says, could lead to more effective resources and support for young adults.

When asked if the researchers were surprised by any of the findings, Dr. Bühler cites an aspect of social functioning that seemed unaffected by the stressors of 2020: loneliness.

“Regardless of whether the young adults were exposed to collective stressors or not,” she says, “the degree and development of their loneliness was similar.”

About this psychology research news

Author: Stephen Waldron
Source: Personality and Social Psychology Society
Contact: Stephen Waldron – Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Access closed.
Collective stressors affect the psychosocial development of young adults” by Janina Bühler et al. Social psychology and personality sciences

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Summary

Collective stressors affect the psychosocial development of young adults

Young adulthood is a critical life stage of development and a time of heightened vulnerability to stress.

In 2020, young adults in Northern California faced a series of unforeseen collective stressors: the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme wildfires, social tensions associated with the murder of George Floyd, and a controversial election. which resulted in an attack on the nation. Capital city.

In a natural experiment, we compared the psychosocial development of 415 young adults across 8 monthly assessment waves in 2020 to a control cohort (not = 465) who followed the same assessment protocol in 2019, before the onset of stressors.

The results of the latent growth curve models indicated that the 2020 cohort had less adaptive trajectories of emotional well-being and lower levels and less adaptive trajectories of social functioning, suggesting adverse effects of cumulative collective stressors on the socio-emotional development of young adults.

Joel C. Hicks