WASHINGTON (April 6, 2022) — Latino/a adolescents who took on greater childcare responsibilities due to COVID-19 experienced a significant increase in symptoms of depression, anxiety and acting out behaviors such as aggression. They also experienced a significant drop in their grade point average, according to a study published today in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
“This study is the first to show how burdens on U.S. Latino/a families due to the pandemic have put adolescents at risk of serious mental health problems and poor school performance,” Kathleen Roche, the lead author of the study and a professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University, said. “If not addressed, such difficulties can lead to suicidal thoughts, school failure and difficulties that last far into adulthood.”
Roche and her colleagues surveyed 547 Latino adolescents before the pandemic and two more times several months after COVID-19 hit. They found that six months into the pandemic, one out of 10 Latino adolescents reported that a household member had been hospitalized due to COVID-19, more than one out of three reported increased childcare responsibilities and nearly 50% reported increased household financial pressures.
Although household hospitalizations, family job and income loss did not have a direct effect on adolescent adjustment after COVID-19 started, such stress seemed to have harmful effects on adolescents because it led to an increase in adolescent childcare duties, Roche said. While other studies have shown that Latino/a families are at greater risk of COVID-related infection, deaths in the family, and financial difficulties, this study is the first to show how pandemic-related stressors affected important outcomes for Latino/a adolescents a year after COVID-19 started, she said.
Adolescents are undergoing rapid biological, cognitive and social changes that increase their vulnerability to very stressful situations, Roche said. Increased focus on caring for younger children may take time away from schoolwork and healthy coping behaviors such as time spent with peers and physical activity, she said.
The study, “COVID-19 Stressors and Latinx Adolescents’ Mental Health Symptomotology and School Performance: A Prospective Study,” was published April 6 in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.