Coping and Mental Health in Early Adolescence during COVID-19.
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The current longitudinal study examines changes in overall mental health symptomatology from before to after the COVID-19 outbreak in youth from the southeastern United States as well as the potential mitigating effects of self-efficacy, optimism, and coping. A sample of 105 parent-child dyads participated in the study (49% boys; 81% European American, 1% Alaska Native/American Indian, 9% Asian/Asian American; 4% Black/African American; 4% Latinx; and 4% other; 87% mothers; 25% high school graduate without college education; 30% degree from 4-year college; 45% graduate or professional school). Parents completed surveys when children were aged 6-9, 8-12, 9-13, and 12-16, with the last assessments occurring between May 13, 2020 and July 1, 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. Children also completed online surveys at ages 11-16 assessing self-efficacy, optimism, and coping. Multi-level modeling analyses showed a within-person increase in mental health symptoms from before to after the outbreak after controlling for changes associated with maturation. Symptom increases were mitigated in youth with greater self-efficacy and (to some extent) problem-focused engaged coping, and exacerbated in youth with greater emotion-focused engaged and disengaged coping. Implications of this work include the importance of reinforcing self-efficacy in youth during times of crisis, such as the pandemic, and the potential downsides of emotion-focused coping as an early response to the crisis for youth.