Safely Social: Promoting and Sustaining Adolescent Engagement in Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ming Te Wang, Christina L. Scanlon, Meng Hua, Juan Del Toro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Adolescents are at risk for violating COVID-19 social distancing measures owing to salient developmental needs for autonomy and relatedness. This intensive longitudinal study investigated the initiation and sustainment of adolescents' daily social distancing behaviors. Methods: Focus group and daily-diary approaches were used to collect 6,216 assessments from a nationwide American adolescent sample (n = 444; Mage = 15.1; 40% male; 42% black/African American, 40% white/European American, 10% Latinx, 6% Asian American, 2% Native American) over the course of 14 days at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results: When adolescents were motivated by preventing others from getting sick, they were more likely to engage in social distancing (same day: B = .50, SE = .09, 95% confidence interval [CI] [.32, .68] p < .001; next day: B = .49, SE = .09, 95% CI [.31, .67] p < .001). Daily social support from friends (same day: B = .04, SE = .02, 95% CI [.01, .08] p < .05; next day: B = .08, SE = .02, 95% CI [.05, .12] p < .001), connectedness with friends via technology (same day: B = .23, SE = .04, 95% CI [.14, .32] p < .001; next day: B = .12, SE = .05, 95% CI [.03, .21] p < .001), and practical knowledge about ways to prevent contracting and transmitting COVID-19 (same day: B = .12, SE = .02, 95% CI [.08, .17] p < .001; next day: B = .05, SE = .02, 95% CI [.01, .10] p < .05) positively predicted adolescents' same- and next-day engagement in social distancing. Conclusions: Adolescents who were motivated by the desire to protect others were more likely to engage in social distancing. In addition, adolescents who learned about preventative health behaviors for mitigating COVID-19, received peer support, and remained virtually connected with friends were more likely to engage in daily social distancing at the onset of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1059-1066
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Volume68
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • COVID-19
  • Engagement
  • Motivation
  • Public health
  • Social distancing

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