How Adolescents Grow in Times of Stress
Apr 28 2022
Research has recently focused on how the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the mental health of the population, especially amongst adolescents. But the flip side is now being observed — in families where strength-based parenting is practiced, young people are actually thriving and building resilience from the challenges imposed on them in the past two years. —Shekufeh Monadjem
This study by Allen et al. (2022) examined the psychosocial factors that “influence the capacity of adolescents to grow through the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Research focus on mental health
“As daily routines and social connectivity have become increasingly disrupted by mounting restrictions, both the media and academic research have focused on the mental health of populations affected by the pandemic.” Recent studies have “demonstrated symptoms of increased stress and mental illness in the general population when compared to pre-pandemic times, particularly in children and adolescents.”1 Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to being negatively impacted by major changes in their world, as they are going through a critical period of identity formation founded on building connections with peers. “It is not surprising, therefore, that the restrictions and disruptions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have compromised the mental health of young people.”2
Positive stress-induced growth
However, according to Ord et al. (2020),3 compelling research suggests that stress is not always a negative influence and that people, including children and adolescents, can grow and thrive as a result of times of stress. This idea has received less research attention, and according to Bruining et al. (2020)4 “if studies continue to focus on morbidity, an understanding of how people cope and grow through this pandemic will not be achieved.”
While schools, offices, and shops have been closed, walks in nature have continued to be permitted, with recent research indicating that “adolescents who spend more time engaging in outdoor activities during lockdowns experience smaller declines in subjective wellbeing and show greater resilience to COVID-19 related stress.”5 Increased family time, decreased daily stress, and a reduction in sensory stimulation are additional identified benefits of COVID-19, with these family, environmental, and lifestyle changes being linked to “a decrease in child and adolescent mental illness symptoms and an improvement in wellbeing.”4
Strength-based parenting (SBP)
Parenting plays a large role in how young people react to difficulties; SBP is a style of parenting that seeks to identify and cultivate positive states and qualities in one’s children. Parents who practice SBP: “(a) recognize what their child can do well and (b) support their child to practice and cultivate their known and unrealized strengths.”6 Research collected in teenage samples shows that SBP is “positively related to life satisfaction, self-confidence, subjective well-being, and positive emotions, and negatively related to (e.g., is protective against) anxiety, depression, stress, and negative emotions.”7 According to Unicef (2020),2 SBP plays an important role in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in which adolescents are experiencing increased symptoms of mental illness and parents and children are spending more time at home on account of lockdown. Teenagers are now relying heavily on their parents for vital sources of support. This heightened reliance on parents means that the style of parenting received during lockdown is likely to have a significant impact on the degree to which an adolescent is able to grow through the stress they are experiencing.
Overall, the study found that there was a direct correlation between strength-based parenting (SBP) and stress-related growth, particularly during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Allen, K. A., Waters, L., Arslan, G., & Prentice, M. (2022). Strength-based parenting and stress-related growth in adolescents: Exploring the role of positive reappraisal, school belonging, and emotional processing during the pandemic. Journal of Adolescence, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1002/jad.12016
Summary by: Shekufeh Monadjem – Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enable students to view the world in a positive light as well as enabling them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.
- World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). Adolescent mental health fact sheet. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health
- United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). (2020). “Living in limbo”: The views of young people in Australia at the start of the COVID‐19 pandemic and national response. https://www.unicef.org.au/Upload/UNICEF/Media/Documents/UNICEF-COVID-19-Living-in-Limbo-2020.pdf
- Ord, A. S., Stranahan, K. R., Hurley, R. A., & Taber, K. H. (2020). Stress‐related growth: Building a more resilient brain. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 32(3), A4–A212. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.20050111
- Bruining, H., Bartels, M., Polderman, T. J. C., & Popma, A. (2020). COVID‐19 and child and adolescent psychiatry: An unexpected blessing for part of our population? European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 30(7), 1139–1140. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-020-01578-5
- Jackson, S. B., Stevenson, K. T., Larson, L. R., Peterson, M. N., & Seekamp, E. (2021). Outdoor activity participation improves adolescents’ mental health and wellbeing during the COVID‐19 pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(5), 2506. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052506
- Arslan, G., Allen, K.‐A., & Waters, L. E. (2020). Strength‐based parenting and academic motivation in adolescents during COVID‐19 pandemic: Exploring the effect of school belonging and strength use. [Unpublished manuscript].
- Jach, H. K., Sun, J., Loton, D., Chin, T. C., & Waters, L. E. (2018). Strengths and subjective wellbeing in adolescence: Strength-based parenting and the moderating effect of mindset. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(2), 567-586.