Survey: Pandemic caused teens to experience ‘collective trauma’

Dive Brief:

  • More than three-fourths of 13- to 19-year-olds have been showing up for online classes at least four days a week, but they’re generally spending less time on learning than if they were in school, according to the results of a nationally representative survey of 3,300 high school students. The results were released Friday by America’s Promise Alliance and its research institute, the Center for Promise at Boston University.
  • About a quarter of students responded they feel “not connected at all” to their school community, to adults at their school or to their classmates. And Asian students were the most likely to respond their “emotional and cognitive health” has worsened during the pandemic.
  • Sixty percent of respondents said an adult at their school has offered social or emotional support during this time, while the rest said such services had not been offered. “These survey findings, in the context of current events, show that young people are experiencing collective trauma fueled by changes in their immediate circumstances combined with ongoing uncertainty,” wrote the authors of the survey report.

Teens responded that their concerns over health and financial-related matters have increased.

America’s Promise Alliance


Dive Insight:

The results show additional differences between groups of students. For example, youth whose parents were born outside of the U.S. expressed poorer emotional and cognitive health than those with parents born in the U.S. And those living in urban areas were 15% more likely than those in rural communities to report poor health indicators. “These findings may reflect the greater risks COVID-19 presents for some racial groups and in more densely populated places,” the authors wrote.

The authors urge educators and others working over the summer, including school administrators, camp counselors and elected leaders, to spend time listening to teens to better understand their concerns. And the responses confirm educators’ expectations they will be spending more time on students’ social and emotional well-being this fall. 

The results also come as student-led organizations, in response to both the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests, have presented their own agenda for the fall, with one of 10 guiding principles focusing on “a positive and nurturing climate and culture.”

“Schools should support the whole child and invest in trauma-informed teaching, school counselors and social workers, with attention to affinity-based mental health support,” the statement says.

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